English as a Second Language

This guide contains library information that will help you in ESLN classes

What is a scholarly source?

Scholarly sources (also referred to as academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed) are written by experts in a particular field or discipline of study and serve to keep others interested in that subject up to date on the most recent research, findings, and news.

What is peer review?

Peer-reviewed articles are read by subject experts ("peers" of the author) before they are published in a journal. These experts evaluate this source as part of the body of research for a particular discipline and look for mistakes, suggest the author make changes to the articles, and may even recommend that an article not be published at all. The purpose of peer review is to ensure that the highest quality articles are published.

How do you identify peer reviewed journal articles?

Many library databases offer the option of limiting search results to peer reviewed/refereed journals. Some examples:

Ulrichsweb lists journals and indicates whether they are peer-reviewed (refereed). It is NOT used to search for articles on a topic.

Journal web sites:

Examine the Instructions to Authors page that most journals provide to assess if the submission process involves reviewers or referees. Use Google to find the journal's web site and look for Instructions to Authors or Submission Guidelines.

Article revision:

Examine the first page of an article to see if it provides the date when the article was revised or accepted for publication. This does not confirm that the article was peer-reviewed but offers one piece of evidence.

How can I tell if other sources are scholarly?

Articles are not the only sources that can be scholarly or peer-reviewed. The following characteristics can help you differentiate scholarly sources from those that are not. Be sure and look at the criteria in each category when making your determination, rather than basing your decision on only one criteria.


  • Are author names included?
  • Are the author's credentials provided?
  • Are the credentials relevant to the information provided?


  • Who is the publisher of the information?
  • Is the publisher an academic institution, scholarly, or professional organization?
  • Is their purpose for publishing this source evident?


  • Who is the intended audience of this source?
  • Is the language geared toward those with knowledge of a specific discipline or the general public?


  • Why is the information being provided or the article written?
  • Are sources cited?
  • Are there references to other writings on this topic?
  • Are there charts, graphs, tables, and bibliographies included?
  • Are research claims documented?
  • Are conclusions based on evidence provided?
  • How long is the source?


  • Is the date of publication evident?
  • Is currency of the information crucial to your research?

Learn more: Evaluating web sites using the CRAAP Test

Lesson: Characteristics of Scholarly Articles

Screenshot: Characteristics of Scholarly Articles tutorial

The Characteristics of Scholarly Articles lesson explores the structure and content of scholarly journal articles and introduces the peer review process. You'll learn to analyze the key components of a scholarly article, taking into account disciplinary differences between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. You'll learn to describe the peer review process, and explain why it is important in academic research.