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The content on this page is from the online SkillShop Reading Scholarly Articles. If you complete the SkillShop, you'll earn a badge that can be shared with your instructors or included in your resume.
This short video (2:36) demonstrates how to use some simple concepts to determine if an article is scholarly. Many databases include features that will tell you if an article is scholarly, but if you already found something and can't tell right away, this video will help you make a determination. If you want to follow along with the video, it uses this article as the example (click the doi link to view it):
Paprocki, N., Oleyar, D., Brandes, D., Goodrich, L., Crewe, T., & Hoffman, S. W. (2017). Combining migration and wintering counts to enhance understanding of population change in a generalist raptor species, the North American Red-tailed Hawk. The Condor, 119(1), 98–107. https://doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-16-132.1
Depending on who you ask, you will get different definitions for the term 'scholarly article.' However, there are some characteristics that almost everyone will agree on. An article should meet all of these criteria to be considered scholarly:
These criteria may seem vague, but that is because there is a wide range of variation between disciplines. For example, an astronomy article will differ greatly from a philosophy article. The type of data used, the structure of the writing, the use of technical terms and more will all be quite different. However, they will all meet the three criteria above.
Unlike scholarly articles, popular articles are those that you will see in blogs, newspapers, magazines, and more. Popular articles can be written by people who have little to no prior knowledge about the topic, often include a lot of opinion or unsubstantiated claims, and don't follow a clear format. Popular articles also often include a lot of beautiful images and visual elements, sometimes even video or audio. Lastly, popular articles often include advertisements embedded within the article -- sometimes the ads appear to be articles themselves.
It is important to note that the terms 'scholarly articles' and 'academic articles' are often used interchangeably. Again, depending on who you ask, you may get some variation in these definitions so if you are ever unsure, be sure to ask for clarifications. For the purposes of this tutorial and for the majority of faculty at HSU, we will be treating these terms as synonymous but will most often use the term 'scholarly.'