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What is a scholarly article?

Have you been asked to find a scholarly journal article or are you looking for research for your essay? We will give you an introduction here on how you recognize a scholarly article and other types of academic texts.

Critically evaluating texts

During your studies at Södertörn University (SH) or the Swedish Red Cross University (RKH) you’ll need to search and evaluate different types of texts, for example scholarly articles and other research publications for your essay. To evaluate if the text is scholarly and trustworthy, we recommend using these questions:

  • Author: Is the author an expert within the field? Does he/she have a relevant academic degree and where is he/she employed?
  • References: Does the text contain references to other scholarly texts? Who has linked or referred to the text?
  • Context: Is the text published at a university or in a peer reviewed scholarly journal?
  • Review: Has the text been reviewed by other researchers before being published, so called peer review?
  • Aim: Is the purpose to present the results from a scholarly study? Is the text objective?
  • Structure: Is the text well structured? Does it describe the purpose, methodology and conclusions of the text?
  • Publication date: When was the text published or updated? Is it the latest edition? Is the information up-to-date?
  • Target audience: For which group of readers is the text intended – for example scholars, students or the public?

Scholarly articles

Scholarly articles are articles in scholarly journals that present research results. It may, for example, apply to new, empirical results (original articles) or overviews of previous research (review articles).

The articles are usually written by scholars, the target audience is other scholars and the peer review is done by scholars in the field. Compared with, for example, newspapers or popular journals, the articles are often long, and they contain terms common to the subject area of the journal.

The articles can be written differently depending on the subject, methodology, and what type of article it is. They often contain the following parts:

  • Abstract - A short summary of the article.
  • Key words - Central concepts that describe the contents.
  • Introduction - Background information, previous research, the study's aim and research questions.
  • Methodology - A review of the research methodology, the selection of materials and more.
  • Results - A presentation of the research results.
  • Discussion - An interpretation and conclusions of the results. Reconnects to previous research.
  • List of references - A list of all the documents referred to by the author.

Peer review

Peer review means that experienced scholars within the journal’s subject area review submitted articles and evaluate their scholarly quality before publication. They recommend if an article should be published, rejected or revised. The review is often performed anonymously, meaning that the authors don't know who reviewed their articles. Sometimes the articles are anonymous to the reviewer too.

Most scholarly journals use the peer review process but not all of them. To find out how a journal reviews their articles, go to the journal’s website or check if it’s mentioned in the article. In the Ulrichsweb database you can find information about journals, for example if it contains peer reviewed articles. Ulrichsweb is available for students and staff at SH. Go to Ulrichsweb via Databases External link..

Remember that even if the journal mostly contains peer reviewed articles, it may also contain other non-scholarly texts, such as book reviews, debate articles etc. Therefore, you always need to evaluate the article by, for example, examining its aim and structure.

Other types of texts

As a student you will encounter different types of texts. During your studies they can be useful in different ways. Some texts present results from research, while other can be used for inspiration or topic overview. Here are some examples.

Scholarly texts

Many scholars present their research results in the form of a monograph (a coherent book) or as a chapter in an anthology (a collection with an editor). Books can sometimes undergo peer review, but otherwise the review is often done by the editors. A good idea is to read the preface and introduction to find out more about the author, the aim, the context and any potential reviews.

A scholarly work written by a doctoral student during the doctoral program with the aim of obtaining a doctoral degree. It is defended publicly and is examined and approved by other scholars. The dissertation can be published as a monograph or as a compilation thesis (where several scholarly articles are introduced by a so-called "kappa").

A contribution to a scholarly conference. Usually written by scholars, often as a short article, to present research to scholarly colleagues within the same field. At some conferences the papers are reviewed by other scholars. After the conference, the contributions can be published in a conference proceeding.

Reports can be written in many different contexts. A research report is written by scholars, presents the results of a scholarly study and includes references to previous research. Read more in the preface or introduction for information on the report's authors, purpose, context and review process.

Non-scholarly texts

An essay written by a student at the bachelor's or master's level. Reviewed by the supervisor, the examiner and other students before approval. Student essays are usually not considered to meet the requirements to qualify as scholarly research but may give a good overview and inspiration for you essay.

A university textbook conveys knowledge and summarizes key research or theories within a specific subject area in a readable and general way to students. If you’re looking for scholarly texts, use the reference list to find the original scholarly theories and studies.

A journal article that presents and summarizes research within a specific subject area in an entertaining and readable way for a wide audience. In connection to essay writing, popular journal articles may contain good tips on further reading.

A short article that contains general and current news for the public. If you are writing an essay you may, for example, use newspaper articles to show that your essay topic is current and of interest.

What is Open Access?

When you are searching for scientific articles you might run into the term “Open Access”. Open Access is a way of publishing a work, for example an article or a book, in such a way that there is no cost involved for the reader. There are several different levels of Open Access and to describe them you often use different colours. In the last few years more and more colours have been added.

  • Gold Open Access
    Gold Open Access means full access to a publication. With Gold Open Access the publication is published with a creative commons-license External link, opens in new window. or similar, so you know how to use and re-use it. There may be a cost involved for the author.
  • Green Open Access
    Green Open Access means that the author uploads a version of the publication in an open repository (like DiVA External link, opens in new window.) or a website. It could be the author’s first version or the peer-reviewed version. Depending on the policy of the publisher there might be an embargo, meaning that the author must wait a few months before posting their version.
  • Hybrid Open Access
    In the last few years Hybrid Open Access has become more common. A hybrid journal contains a mixture of articles that are Open Access and some that are subscription based. Authors who publish their articles Open Access in a hybrid journal must pay a publishing fee; this fee is often higher than the fee for Gold Open Access journal.
  • Bronze Open Access
    Bronze Open Access means that the publication is freely available, but it is unclear what the reuse rights are. Sometimes there can be an embargo, that means you have to wait before the publication is available.
  • Other colours?
    When you search in databases you might find other colours to describe the levels of Open Access. New ways have developed how to publish and sometimes different colours are used to describe Open Access. However, the colours above are the most common used.

Learn More

In our library search guide, you can learn more about how to find scholarly articles and other research publications in an effective way. Go to the search guide.

You can also book a time with a librarian to get individual guidance when it comes to searching for information, evaluating texts and referencing. Book tutoring in information seeking.


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