How to Do Library Research
Evaluation Clues for Articles Found on the Web or in Library Databases
As more articles are published electronically as full text (complete article), clues from the publication itself are not available for the user to identify whether the article is from a scholarly journal or not. This page has suggestions for ways to determine if an article is scholarly when you don't have the printed journal in front of you:
- A scholarly article will tend to have an extensive (more than ten entries) bibliography. Most genuinely scholarly sources will have a bibliography or reference list (sometimes called works cited) with thirty or more sources.
- The length of the article can be an indicator of type--longer articles (more than ten pages) will tend to be scholarly.
- Information about the journal that the article is in can be found in UlrichsWeb (Ulrich's Periodical Directory). UlrichsWeb also includes updated reviews from Magazines for Libraries and a few other sources--click on to see them. These are indicated on the initial search results page by a yellow star in the star column (to the left of the title). See Identifying Key Journals in a Field for additional information about using these reference sources. A scholarly article will most often be from an academic or scholarly publication.
- The index that is used to identify the article can be a clue for identifying scholarly journals. An index such as Biological Abstracts or PsycINFO is only going to include scholarly journals. Web of Science, which combines Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index, only contains citations to scholarly articles. (Note: CSU affiliates may check the link for electronic--and print--ownership of journal issues.) Many of the articles found in indexes such as Academic Search Premier or Business Source Complete, are from either popular or trade magazines.
- Scholarly sources are sometimes separated in indexes: Business Source Complete and Academic Search Premier (and a number of other databases) offer a check box on the initial search screen for . By checking the box, search results will only include citations to scholarly articles. After a search has been made, on the left-hand side or may be selected instead. Occasionally there are scholarly sources in general databases--examine the other clues suggested on this page to determine if an individual article is scholarly and/or see How to Evaluate Journal Articles.
- Look for information about the author. A scholarly article will generally have an author who is affiliated with a university or other scholarly organization. For example: and . However, scholars have been known to write articles for a general audience, so do not presume that because an author is an academic that an article is automatically scholarly.
- As a general rule, newspaper articles are not considered to be scholarly, although there are very rare exceptions to this rule. However, just as with magazines, there are many instances when a researcher will want to use them.
- The journal publisher's own Web site often will indicate whether or not the journal is peer reviewed/refereed (scholarly). UlrichsWeb frequently has a link to journal Web sites.