Scholarly articles (also known as academic or peer-reviewed articles) are written by experts for experts (and for college students!). Scholarly articles usually contain cited references and are often written in specialized, technical language. They are in-depth explorations of focused topics, and because they’ve been through an intensive review process before publication, they are highly trustworthy sources.
Learn more at What Is a Refereed/Peer-Reviewed Article.
Almost every library database has a way to limit your keyword search so that you retrieve only scholarly articles. Look for checkboxes marked “scholarly” or “academic” or “peer-reviewed”:
With practice, you can tell at a glance if an article is scholarly. Look for these characteristics of a scholarly article:
Distinguishing among Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Journals offers more help understanding the differences between scholarly, popular, and trade journals.
Because they usually are written by experts, in specialized/technical language, scholarly articles can be hard to read! But if you review one carefully, even if you don’t understand every detail, you should be able to extract from the article one or two main ideas or facts that you can incorporate into your research project.
In a scientific scholarly article, there may be terms you don’t understand—Google them! Also, a scientific article may contain complicated numerical/statistical data that’s hard for non-experts to understand. But again, you don’t have to understand every detail of the article to be able to use it!
Try reviewing the Introduction section and Discussion section of a scientific article. That’s where the authors lay out the purpose of their research and the importance of what they discovered—you can often extract main ideas and interesting facts from those sections.