Unit 2: Scholarly Articles


How do you read a scholarly article?

Scholarly or peer-reviewed articles are a valuable source of information for research, but many people shy away from long articles because they can seem intimidating. When searching for sources during research, people may miss out on great articles because they opted for shorter articles that did not appear overwhelming to read. This problem can be helped by breaking down how articles are written for academic journals and magazines. There is a common format that each article follows and by understanding the role of each section it can make these article more accessible. Scholarly article are found in peer-reviewed journals and contain a set of sections that make it very easy to distinguish. Popular articles can be found everywhere on the internet and are usually what will show up as your first search results if you "Google" a topic. These articles may contain useful information but it can be difficult to determine their validity as a source. In this unit you will learn how to distinguish scholarly from popular articles and how to read scholarly articles once you have found them. These skills will help you find and use scholarly sources for research.



Let's first take a look what scholarly articles are and their importance in education research.

What make Scholarly articles... Scholarly:

Scholarly or peer-reviewed articles are a valuable source of information for research and there are various different types of research articles.

Editage.com [1] describes 6 types of research articles: https://www.editage.com/insights/6-article-types-that-journals-publish-a-guide-for-early-career-researchers

1. Original research: These are detailed studies reporting original research and are classified as primary literature. They include hypothesis, background study, methods, results, interpretation of findings, and a discussion of possible implications. Original research articles are long, with the word limit ranging from 3000 to 6000, and can even go up to 12,000 words for some journals. These require a significant investment of time.

2. Review article: Review articles provide a critical and constructive analysis of existing published literature in a field, through summary, analysis, and comparison, often identifying specific gaps or problems and providing recommendations for future research. These are considered as secondary literature since they generally do not present new data from the author's experimental work. Review articles can be of three types, broadly speaking: literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Review articles can be of varying lengths depending upon the journal and subject area. For narrative reviews or literature reviews, the length could range anywhere between 8000 to 40,0006 words while systematic reviews are usually less than 10,000 words long. However, some journals also publish shorter reviews, around 3000-5000 words long.

3. Clinical case study: Clinical case studies present the details of real patient cases from medical or clinical practice. The cases presented are usually those that contribute significantly to the existing knowledge on the field. The study is expected to discuss the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease. These are considered primary literature and usually have a word count similar to that of an original article. Clinical case studies require a lot of practical experience and may not be a suitable publication format for early career researchers.

4. Clinical trial: Once again, specific to the field of medicine, clinical trials describe the methodology, implementation, and results of controlled studies, usually undertaken with large patient groups. Clinical trial articles are also long, usually of about the same length as an original research article. Clinical trials also require practical work experience, as well as, high standards of ethics and reliability. So this format is more useful for experienced researchers.

5. Perspective, opinion, and commentary: Perspective pieces are scholarly reviews of fundamental concepts or prevalent ideas in a field. These are usually essays that present a personal point of view critiquing widespread notions pertaining to a field. A perspective piece can be a review of a single concept or a few related concepts. These are considered as secondary literature and are usually short articles, around 2000 words.

To continue exploring different types of research papers go back to [2] and read through the rest of the article.

As you can see their are various types of research papers, but most follow a similar and recognizable format. This is is part of of the reason why many people shy away from long articles like these, because they see the format and become intimidated at first. When searching for sources during a research activity, people may miss out on great articles because they opted for shorter articles that did not appear overwhelming to read. This problem can be helped by breaking down how articles are written for academic journals and magazines. There is a common format that each article follows and by understanding the role of each section it can make these article more accessible.


Scholarly articles are articles that are found in reputable journals and magazines, and have been reviewed by peers. These articles each contain other similarities that help the reader know they are scholarly articles. Some of these aspects are:

  • Authors: researchers, professors, graduate students, etc.
  • Audience: other researchers and scholars – including students!
  • Published in academic (scholarly) journals
  • Based on original research or experimentation
  • Known for their high level of credibility, especially if peer-reviewed (refereed); the majority of scholarly
  • articles are peer reviewed.
  • Tend to follow specific conventions

Peer Review in Three Minutes http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/pr/ This video by NCSU Libraries provides context for scholarly articles and also explains peer review.

Write down your own definition for peer-reviewed article. Next look at the following chart and see how your definition compares to the aspects presented in the chart.


Or you can download the pdf here: https://www.nacc.edu/Content/Uploads/nacc.edu/files/Library/PeerReviewed.pdf

Check your understanding:

  1. Did your definition contain aspects that match up with the chart?
  2. What aspects did you leave out or add and why do you think you did that?


This next activity looks at why many people struggle or avoid scholarly articles.

With all the forms of digital media, the most valuable of sources for research is probably written articles that appear in peer-reviewed journals. Many people, both students and adults, struggle when reading articles, whether they are scholarly or not, when the article looks long and confusing. The following article gives a funny yet intriguing take on how people read articles and why many don't read the whole thing.

Manjoo, F. "You Won't Finish This Article: Why people online don't read to the end." Slate (June 6, 2013)


  • Did you make it to the end?
  • Did you read the whole thing or did you skim through certain parts?

Here Manjoo (2013) provides some insight as to why people may avoid reading long articles. It could be the result of living in time when there is so much information to consume that many people have become used to short articles that are easy to read. Many people read online articles as a means of passing the time and short articles that grab your attention, but offer little substance, are easier to read but this does not work when completing research. Sources like news articles may seem to offer useful information, but it is often biased in some way or altered to make it grab the readers attention. This can lead to misleading information being spread and should be left out of formal research assignments.

Now take a look at some different articles. Here are two examples that deal with tortoise hibernation. As you read through them, note what you notice right away that is different between the two. Continue to read through and note any other differences you see.

  • 1st Article

TURTLE_&_TORTOISE_HIBERNATION.pdf https://www-jstor-org.libproxy.albany.edu/stable/pdf/25140641.pdf?ab_segments=0%2Fbasic_SYC-5187_SYC-5188%2Fcontrol&refreqid=fastly-default%3A5a77e45fac8191239c66aaf263f35e4f [4]

  • 2nd Article

Tortoise Hibernation article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25140641

You might notice that the second article contains many of the aspects discussed earlier that makes it a scholarly article. You may have also noticed that it is very wordy and may appear overwhelming at first. The other article is shorter, and uses much more familiar language for the average reader, especially younger readers. The 2nd article is clearly easier to read, but does it offer the same quality of information? While many online sources can be believed, there is no guarantee that what you are reading is not biased in some way. Peer-reviewed sources are free from bias and should provide only information that has been observed, tested, checked and validated by others.

The following shows you a brief outline of what contents can be found in both scholarly and popular articles. Each type has a place in education but scholarly article are the only ones considered valid sources. You can print out your own copy if you click on the picture. It will open a full page version that is printable. Please fill in the chart with any other information you feel is important to distinguish scholarly article from popular articles.


This is why teachers and professors want scholarly peer-reviewed sources included in papers. It also helps ensure the readers are learning valid information to back up their research topics. Whether you are completing research on your own for a job or school, or you are trying to help students complete research, it is important to understand what scholarly are and how to rad them.

Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students Make the Most of Scholarly Articles [5]

Read the article above and write a brief summary in your journal. Think about the other reasons that students avoid scholarly articles and ways to overcome them. Do you use any of the strategies mentioned in the article? What implications does the article have for teachers and how they teach research skills to students?


Once you understand how to identify scholarly articles it will make the research process much easier. Most of the research that is done by students in both K-12 and college is for the purpose of research papers. Most teachers give out a rubric for research papers to ensure students meet the requirements, one of which is using scholarly peer-reviewed articles, but gaining these research skills in this mini-course can help you with all aspects of completing research papers. Here is an example rubric for a research paper.


https://www.cornellcollege.edu/library/faculty/focusing-on-assignments/tools-for-assessment/ResearchPaperRubric.pdf [6]

References: https://libguides.ucmerced.edu/think_like_a_researcher/read_lesson https://www.cornellcollege.edu/library/faculty/focusing-on-assignments/tools-for-assessment/ResearchPaperRubric.pdf https://www.editage.com/insights/6-article-types-that-journals-publish-a-guide-for-early-career-researchers


Exit Ticket

  1. In your journal, reflect on what scholarly articles are and how they differ from popular articles.
  2. Explain how to spot a scholarly article?
  3. What are the different types of research articles, and which types do you think pertain to either you as a student, or a classroom of students?
  4. What skills in particular would be most useful for K-12 students when researching for scholarly articles?
  5. Look at the research paper rubric, how will your understanding of research skills and scholarly articles help you to get a high score on the rubric?


Unit 3 [7]

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