Descriptive Transcript

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Are you wondering about the difference between scholarly and non scholarly sources? This video will show you some of the key features to look out for.

Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Title Slide

It can sometimes be hard to tell if a source is scholarly when you're looking at your library search results or when you're looking at a digital copy of an article. There are several signs to look for to tell whether a source is scholarly.

Example search Results and article text

The first sign is the title of the article. Many scholarly articles have descriptive titles like this article, Understanding the Role of Indigenous Community Participation in Indigenous Prenatal and Infant Toddler Health Promotion Programs in Canada.


Here's a sampling of a few scholarly article titles.

  • In the Humanities: Traces of Derrida in Toni Morrison's Jazz.
  • In the Sciences: Accelerating Drug Development Antiviral Therapies for Emerging Viruses as a model.
  • In the social sciences: Understanding the role of Indigenous community Participation in Indigenous Prenatal and infant toddler health promotion programs in Canada: A Realist Review.

The next clue is to look for an abstract. Many scholarly articles include a brief abstract that tells you what the article is about.

Example abstract

Next look for academic expert level language. Scholarly sources are written for other experts in the field, so they will use more specialized language and higher-level vocabulary, like the examples highlighted here.

  • “Striking disparities in indigenous maternal child health outcomes persist in relatively affluent nations.”
  • “We systematically searched computerized databases and identified non indexed reports using key informants.”
Article text with samples highlighted.

The authors of scholarly sources are typically affiliated with colleges, universities and other research institutions. Many articles will include brief author information like this example, which highlights that the authors work for hospital research centers, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. If no author affiliation information is included in the article, you can try searching for them online.

Example article with authors and institutional affiliation listed

Scholarly articles, especially in the sciences or social sciences, also include charts, graphs or tables. At the end of the article, look for a reference list or bibliography.

Example articles with charts and tables highlighted

Finally look at the length of the article and where it's published. Look for in-depth articles that are at least several pages long and are published in an academic journal. This journal was published in Social Science and Medicine and is over ten pages long.

Example article info, including pages.

If you're not sure if the source is an academic journal, you can check using Scholar OneSearch on the library homepage. Type the name of the journal into the Scholar OneSearch box, here we'll type in the publication title Social Science and Medicine, and run your search. Then look for a purple icon and the words peer reviewed below the relevant journal title in your results. This verifies that the journal is a peer reviewed publication.

Screen capture of ScholarOne Search. 

Need help? Have questions? Ask a librarian. Visit to connect with a librarian via phone, email or chat.

Closing Slide: Ask a Librarian