Scholarly Sources

For many research assignments, finding and reading scholarly (or academic) sources is a requirement of the assignment. Scholarly sources can include any books or journal articles written by academic researchers for the academic community. They reflect the high research standards and values of the academic community, including using well established research methods, citing sources, maintaining objectivity, collecting data ethically, and more. Whenever possible, choose a scholarly source.

You may be wondering...

You may be asked to find “scholarly” / “academic” / “research” / “peer reviewed” articles for an assignment. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences.

Scholarly (Academic) Sources

Scholarly sources, sometimes called academic sources, are written by academics and other experts to share research findings, theories, analyses, ideas, or summaries of knowledge.  Scholarly sources may be primary or secondary sources. 

Scholarly sources are most often associated with articles from scholarly journals. However, books published by academic publishers, such as University of Toronto Press or Oxford University Press, may also be considered scholarly.

Peer Reviewed Articles

Peer reviewed articles refer to scholarly articles that have been 'peer reviewed'. Peer-review is a rigorous editorial process implemented by many scholarly journals. The peer review process involves the evaluation and critical appraisal of an article or manuscript by a reviewer(s) who is also a researcher in that field of study. The article may be reviewed by multiple experts who read the article and then assess the content to ensure the document meets a high level of scholarship. Watch What is a Peer-Review? (2:37).

As shown in the illustration, all peer-reviewed sources are scholarly. However, not all scholarly sources are peer-reviewed. To find out if an article has been peer-reviewed, look up the journal homepage and look for a description of the journal. 

Research Articles

Research articles refer to a type of scholarly article where a researcher, or group of researchers, present findings of their original research, usually involving surveys, interviews, or the like. These articles may also be peer-reviewed.

Scholarly sources are available in both hardcopy and digital formats. In the library, we subscribe to digital formats through a variety of databases. You can either Search the Library or search a specific database. The following guides are also helpful for finding scholarly sources:

  • Types of Sources: Provides links to key databases for different types of sources.
  • Choosing Databases: Answers questions related to choosing the right database for your need.
  • Search Strategies: Identifies key strategies your can apply to searching for scholarly sources.


Scholarly articles are most often in digital format. For online scholarly articles, use keyword searching. Use the filters to limit your results to Full-Text Online, Journal Article, and Peer-Review (optional).

The library does carry some journal issues in hardcopy. Browse the shelves at your campus library, or browse the journal list to find a specific journal title (or 'periodical title'). Library staff are happy to help.

Found an article but can't access the full-text? See Finding Full-Text Articles.


Use keyword searching to find scholarly books on your topic in either digital or hardcopy format. Use the filters to limit your results to Book/eBook.

Keep in mind when searching the library that in most cases the search engine can search the full-text for digital formats, but for hardcopy formats only the publication title and subjects are searchable.


Learn to recognize the differences between scholarly, popular and trade articles.

For scholarly articles, look for articles described as literature reviews, research studies, original research, or a theoretical model/framework. Avoid citing book reviews and editorials. To identify a scholarly article:

  1. Find the title: Usually rather long for a title, it describes the article and often includes technical jargon.
  2. Locate the author(s): A list of who wrote the article which typically includes their professional credentials and academic affiliations.
  3. Read the abstract: A concise summary of the article that usually includes the research purpose, method, and key findings. 
  4. Identify the headings: Standard headings like (e.g., Methods, Results, Discussion) usually divide content into sections.
  5. Locate the references: Citations to other sources is expected so a reference list or works cited page should be included at the end of the article.
  6. Locate the journal homepage: The journal homepage will usually describe the scope of the journal, criteria for articles that are published, and if the journal uses a peer-review process.
  7. To view an example article, see: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article Interactive


Certain disciplines, such as literature and history, are more likely to use scholarly books. Check with your professor if a book is an appropriate scholarly source for your assignment. To identify a scholarly book, look for an academic publisher (for example, University of Toronto Press).

Original research articles are often the most common type of scholarly article you will come across. These articles are highly structured, and are usually identified by their headings -- Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion. They are often difficult to read with lots of technical jargon. Here's a few tips on how to read these articles strategically:

  1. Check for Relevance: Scan the title, journal name, publication date, and abstract to ensure the article fits your assignment criteria and your topic.
  2. Scan the Methods Section: Note the type of research being done -- survey, interviews, etc. -- and what/who they studied.
  3. Read the Introduction: This section will provide background information, often citing statistics and the like. In addition, it will clarify why the research is important, and how it adds to the current knowledge about this topic.
  4. Read the Results/Discussion Section(s): These sections cover the actual findings of the research study. Look for findings that are surprising or add to your understanding of the topic. Consider how you can use this information in your assignment.
  5. Scan the References: Look for other sources that you can look up. In some cases, as you do your research, you will notice the same authors show up in multiple articles on your topic. This is a good clue that they are key authors in this field and you should maybe read some of their articles, too.

Watch How to Read a Scholarly Article (2:34).


Identify different types of scholarly articles. Watch video  

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