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Research Guides@Tufts

Guide to Scholarly Articles

Getting Started

Scholarship is a conversation.

That conversation is often found in the form of published materials such as books, essays, and articles. Here, we will focus on scholarly articles because scholarly articles often contain the most current scholarly conversation.

After reading through this guide on scholarly articles you will be able to identify and describe different types of scholarly articles. This will allow you to navigate the scholarly conversation more effectively which in turn will make your research more productive.

What Makes an Article Scholarly?

The distinguishing feature of a scholarly article is not that it is without errors; rather, a scholarly article is distinguished by a few characteristics which reduce the likelihood of errors. For our purposes, those characteristics are expert authors, peer-review, and citations.

  • Expert Authors - Authority is constructed and contextual. In other words it is built through academic credentialing and lived experience. Scholarly articles are written by experts in their respective fields rather than generalists. Expertise often comes in the form of academic credentials. For example, an article about the spread of various diseases should be written by someone with credentials and experience in immunology or public health.
  • Peer-review - Peer-review is the process whereby scholarly articles are vetted and improved. In this process an author submits an article to a journal for publication. However, before publication, an editor of the journal will send the article to other experts in the field to solicit their informed and professional opinions of it. These reviewers (sometimes called referees) will give the editor feedback regarding the quality of the article. Based on this process, articles may be published as is, published after specific changes are made, or not published at all.
  • Citations - One of the key differences between scholarly articles and other kinds of articles is that the former contain citations and bibliographies. These citations allow the reader to follow up on the author's sources to verify or dispute the author's claim.

Why Does this Matter?

There is a well-known axiom that says "Garbage in, garbage out." In the context of research this means that the quality of your research output is dependent on the information sources that go into you own research. Generally speaking, the information found in scholarly articles is more reliable than information found elsewhere. It is important to identify scholarly articles and prioritize them in your own research.