What Are Scholarly Articles?

When writing a research essay, instructors often tell their students that they should concentrate on finding scholarly articles for their papers. However, sometimes students have trouble understanding exactly what is meant by a scholarly article. There are characteristics that define a scholarly article, and it is these characteristics that explain why scholarly articles provide the most useful source material for a research paper.


Journals that publish scholarly articles are usually sponsored by a professional organization. These professional organizations are interested in presenting the latest research and breakthroughs dealing with their particular subject matter.


The authors of scholarly articles are experts in their field. They work in the field about which they are writing, have done research on the topic and have a degree in that area. The author's credentials and affiliations, such as professional organizations and universities with which they are associated, will be listed in the article. These often appear on the last page of the piece.

Peer-Reviewed Content

Many times a scholarly article will say it is peer-reviewed. This means that experts in the field have read the article and made suggestions regarding its content prior to publication. The peer-review system helps ensure that the article is of the highest quality and that the research it presents is original and relevant to the topic.


The audience for scholarly texts is professionals in the field discussed, professors and graduate students. The audience members are looking for original research and ideas regarding their field of study.


Because of this specialized audience, the language in scholarly articles tends be serious and to rely on the jargon associated with that particular field. It is not language that will be readily understood by a lay reader.


Often, a scholarly article will begin with a brief summary of its contents. This is referred to as an abstract. Because scholarly articles are sometimes long and can be complicated, an abstract lets a potential reader know upfront the substance of the article and the points it will cover. When having to examine many scholarly articles for a research paper, abstracts are valuable for quickly deciding which articles will be the most helpful.

Research Citations

Scholarly articles rely heavily on research. Because of this, scholarly articles will include citations for all the sources used. These research sources are often other scholarly articles. The sources may appear in a bibliography at the end of the article or may be scattered throughout the paper as footnotes.

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