Hack Scholarly Articles

This video gives you tips to "hack" scholarly articles so you know what to cite for your paper.

We call them "scholarly articles” because they are written by scholars and reviewed by scholars. But, it’s not always easy to tell if what you’re looking at is actually scholarly. So here are some simple features to look for when determining if a source is scholarly or not.

First, look for an abstract. The abstract is a summary of the article and appears at the very beginning. Almost all scholarly articles have abstracts, and you can often read the abstract before you access the full text of the article.

Look at author names. Do they have any credentials or affiliations next to their names? Look for titles like Dr. or Ph. D., or names of colleges or universities. Basically, if it’s written by a scholar, there’s a good chance the source is scholarly.

Look at the end of the article for works cited or a references list. Scholars support their findings by citing the work of other experts in their field. Doing so lends authority to their conclusions. This is the same reason students are expected to cite scholarly sources in their work.

You can usually make an educated guess based on the title of the journal the article is found in. These titles usually sound academic and probably not like something you would read for fun. If you’re really not sure, you can always look up the journal’s website where they should say whether the journal is peer-reviewed or not.

Looking for a journal title is also a good way to make sure that the item you’re looking at is in fact an article, and not a book or some other kind of source. Beware, though, scholarly journals do publish other kinds of sources besides peer-reviewed articles, like book reviews and editorials. These types of sources will usually have a heading that says what kind of document it is. If you’re not sure, use some of the other tips in this video to help you decide.

Compared to other types of articles and information sources, scholarly articles will often use specialized vocabulary as well as graphs, tables, and data.

Finally, one of the easiest ways to tell if an article is scholarly is to use the tools provided by the database you’re searching in. For example, many databases now have a “peer-reviewed” filter which you can select to limit your results to only those items that have been tagged as peer-reviewed. Remember that this filter does not always work perfectly, and other types of non-scholarly sources can show up in your results. Many databases have icons that appear with the item record that shows what kind of source it is. Again, be careful trusting these icons and use other tips from this video to double check that the source is scholarly.

To recap, here are the features to look for:

  • A references list or list of works cited
  • The title of the journal and the journal website
  • The abstract
  • Author credentials
  • Specialized vocabulary, graphs, charts, tables, and data
  • Database icons and filters