Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

STEM First Year Experience NO NOT USE

About Journal Articles

   ♦  Scholarly journal articles are written by and for people in the same and or related academic or professional fields.
   ♦  They use terminology specific to the field.
   ♦  They aim to contribute to the scholarly conversation by advancing knowledge.
   ♦  They are usually peer-reviewed (aka "refereed") or undergo an editorial review by specialists
       in the discipline or profession.
   ♦  They carefully document (cite) their sources, and these cited references may point to earlier sources
       relevant to your topic.
   ♦  Scholarly journal articles also may include links to files with useful supplementary information.


Scholarly journals include articles that are reports and discussions of the results of original research, are written by those who carried out the studies, and are based on the results of their experiments or observations.

These articles are also called primary research articles.

Typical Format of a Primary Research Article

  • Abstract: summary of what the study is about, how the research was conducted, what the findings are.
  • Introduction and Literature Review: background of problem, reasons for/objectives of the study, prior research & literature on the topic.
  • Methods & Results: how the study was conducted, what was found (samples, measurement, procedures)
  • Discussion & Conclusion: Interpretation of the results, summary of important findings & their meaning to the field; sometimes what the limitations of the study are and need for future research.
  • References
  • [May include] Appendices or Supplemental Information files

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article (interactive graphic). NCSU Libraries

How to Read a Scientific Paper (pdf slides) Purdue University Libraries

1. Is the journal academic/scholarly, and does it include peer-reviewed articles?

A.  Search for your journal title in  Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory to see if it is scholarly/academic and refereed (peer-reviewed).

B. Use the peer-reviewed/scholarly/academic limit within the database
     Most article databases allow you to limit your results to only peer-reviewed journals. 
     Select that limit, and the articles in your results list should be from peer-reviewed journals. 
     (Use other methods to verify if some results seem wrong: this method does not always work well.)

C. Check the journal's website
    Search for the journals website. It will usually say whether the journal is peer-reviewed,
    often in an About This Journal section, or in the Instructions to Authors.

2.  Is it a primary research article?
     (i.e., a report of original research, written by the researcher(s))

Even if you have determined that the journal in which an article was published is scholarly, these journals usually also contain other types of articles such as editorials, commentary, review articles, book reviews, and news.  

A.  Clues you might find in the abstract include words such as:
      study, results, methods/methodology, data, experimental, field trial
B.  Look at the format of the article. Does it follow the typical format? (see previous tab)