Skip to Main Content

InfoSkills3: Evaluating Resources

What are journals good for?

Journals are good for...

  • up to date, original research or reviews of research
  • research by experts in a particular subject area or field
  • reference lists - useful for finding other research on your topic
  • peer review- for quality control

What makes a journal article scholarly?

A journal (also known as periodical or serial) contains a number of scholarly articles written by different authors. Journals are published at regular intervals throughout the year e.g monthly, quarterly and are available in both print and online formats.

Scholarly articles, also called academic articles, are intended for other experts and scholars, rather than the general public.

It's important to note that scholarly journals also publish:

  • editorials
  • book and film reviews
  • letters
  • news articles
  • commentaries

These are not considered to be scholarly articles. Make sure you look for some other clues before deciding that you're looking at a scholarly article. 

This video shows how to identify a scholarly article

If you've been asked to find peer reviewed research, you need to know what a peer reviewed research article looks like.

An academic article, also called a scholarly article, is an article written by an expert in an academic or professional field. These articles are intended for other experts and scholars, rather than the general public. There are several ways to determine whether an article is scholarly. While none of these are hard-and-fast rules, they can be useful clues:

  • The article is written by researcher(s), professional(s) or other expert(s).
  • The article commonly has more than one author (this isn't always true).
  • The article appears in an academic journal rather than a magazine or newspaper (but, keep in mind that not everything in an academic journal is a peer reviewed article).
  • The article is of significant length (usually over five pages).
  • The article includes a substantial bibliography or reference list.
  • The article is peer reviewed.
  • The article presents original research or analysis of a topic.
  • The article uses technical or expert-level language.



Re-used with permission thanks to Brooke Williams, Research & Instruction Services Librarian, Communication Studies & School of Journalism, Snell Library, Northeastern University.

Scholarly vs popular journals compared











To inform and entertain a general audience.


To present and/or report on original research.


Usually colourful and attractive; articles often have lots of illustrations and photographs.


Generally contain few colourful photographs.  May have technical charts and graphs as necessary.


Articles are shorter, more superficial, often including a generalised overview of topics.

May be useful as introductory background reading to a new subject.


Articles are longer, more in-depth and narrowly focused.

There is usually an abstract (summary)
of the article.



Language generally non-technical with no specialist knowledge assumed.

Unfamiliar terms and concepts are usually defined.


Technical language (jargon) which assumes specialised background knowledge.



The authors are often journalists with little or no specialist knowledge of the subject.  Their credentials are rarely given.


Authors' credentials as an expert are explicitly presented, usually on the first page.



No original research other than background reading and interviews is involved.


Presents the results of original research.



Rarely cites sources.


All articles are rigorously referenced with all sources cited.  Usually contains footnotes and bibliography.

Peer Review?

Articles are approved for publication by the editor.


Articles are approved for publication after review by the author's scholarly peers.

What does peer review mean?

Scholarly journals are usually subject to peer review (also known as refereeing). This is the process journal editors use to try to ensure the articles they publish meet the standards of good scholarship.

Journal articles are examined by a panel of other scholars in the field - the author's peers. The panel may decide to accept the article, recommend revision or reject it completely. Any article that passes the peer-review process may be considered to have a high level of academic credibility.

Do I still need to evaluate information that is peer reviewed? Remember the CRAAP test! Think about other criteria such as currency and relevance before deciding to use a journal article for your assignment.


Toolkit Home | Defining Your Topic | Searching for Resources | Evaluating Resources | Referencing

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.