Peer-review is the key distinction between scholarly and non-scholarly sources.
In contrast to popular newspapers, magazines, websites, and books, scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field and then reviewed (evaluated) by other experts in that field prior to publication.
Other clues that an article is scholarly:
- The author is an expert. Most scholarly authors are affiliated with a college, university, or research institution. They hold relevant advanced degrees.
- The article presents original research. This research can take many forms, but it often involves formal data analysis or theoretical discussion.
- The article incorporates sophisticated, precise terminology. Experts writing for an expert audience typically use specialist language that will be unfamiliar to a reader outside the field.
- The article includes a bibliography. Most scholarly articles include in-text citations, a reference list or works cited page. The bibliography helps the reader seek out the author’s sources and understand the larger “conversation” on a topic.