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Primary and Secondary Sources

Peer Reviewed, Scholarly, Academic - What does it mean?

Peer Review describes the process that an article goes through before publication. Peer review means the articles are subjected to scrutiny by other researchers before publication to ensure the highest levels of academic merit, research value and accuracy. Peer reviewed articles are often called scholarly, academic, juried or refereed.

Scholarly/Academic refers to articles written by academics and experts in the field. The intended audience for scholarly journals consists of subject specialists, researchers, faculty, and other scholars in the subject area. Scholarly/Academic articles are typically peer reviewed.

Elements of a Peer Reviewed or Scholarly Article

Articles in peer reviewed or scholarly journals are almost always reporting on original research. The article will usually have these elements:

  • Author(s) credentials or academic affiliation
  • A lengthy abstract
  • Report on the research methodology
  • Conclusion or results of the research
  • Footnotes or in-text references
  • A lengthy bibliography

Scholarly vs. Popular

  Scholarly Journals Professional/Trade Journals Popular Sources (Newspapers, Magazines, etc.)


Researchers and experts Members of the trade or profession General public
Authors Researchers and experts Staff writers and members of the profession Staff writers, articles often written by groups, sometimes corporations
Bibliography Lengthy and usually includes in-text citations Sometimes a brief bibliography; variable by profession Rare
Publisher Publishers of scholarly journals, a university press or a professional association Typically associations or commercial groups Usually commercial
Language Formal or semiformal scholarly language; may use jargon or technical terms that assume expertise in the field Informal; may use technical or specialized jargon Informal; written at or below the reading level of average high school students
Content Research reports and commentary Trends; new technologies; workspace standards in the field General interest and news
Purpose To share findings from original research or experiments To advance the profession by covering issues and topics in the field To inform and entertain
Reliability High level of review before publication; peer reviewed articles are reviewed by other experts in the field before publication Articles can undergo review; can be biased to support industry/vendors Deadlines mean content review is limited, stories sometimes come from "third parties" making fact checking difficult



If you do not know whether a journal is a peer reviewed publication, you can use Ulrich's to help you. Ulrich's uses the term "refereed" instead of peer reviewed or scholarly.

Simply click on the link below and type the title of the journal in the search box. In the list of results, a referee jersey symbol A referee jersey icon  indicates it is peer reviewed. In the publication detail record, a column on the left will read "Refereed" and the a column to its right will read "Yes".