Scholarly journals, also known as academic journals, are monthly or quarterly publications that contain articles created by and intended for scholars and academic researchers.
The main content of these journals is detailed reports of research conducted by scholars. However, many also include book reviews, news relevant to scholars in that field, editorials, and other miscellaneous items.
When a professor instructs you to use scholarly articles, you should look for research articles, and not those other types of things.
Most scholarly journals are also peer reviewed journals.
Peer review is “a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field.” (Merriam Webster)
“The peer review system exists to validate academic work, helps to improve the quality of published research, and increases networking possibilities within research communities.” (Elsevier Publishing)
Most peer-reviewed journals are of a scholarly nature, but some are professional or trade journals.
Professional and Trade Journals
Professional and trade journals are generally weekly or monthly publications containing articles written by and for professionals in a certain field or industry (for example, teachers, artists, farmers, marketing professionals, textile workers).
These publications provide relevant news and summaries of recent research that may inform practice in the field.
They are sometimes peer reviewed. Professors may accept the use of these journals, but be sure to clarify research requirements.
Scholarly or Academic Books
Some books are considered scholarly or academic, but although they go through a process of editorial review, it is not considered as rigorous as the peer review which journal articles receive.
Scholarly books may be published by University Presses or any of a number of scholarly publishers; and often edited books made up of chapters by different authors.
Sometimes chapters in scholarly books report research findings in much the same way as journal articles do.
If you are not sure if a book is scholarly, ask a librarian.
Non-Scholarly Magazines, Newspapers and Books
Publications such as magazines, newspapers and books that are not scholarly can sometimes be appropriate as sources for you research depending on the assignment and your instructor’s expectations.
Always be sure to get clarification from your instructor about which sources are acceptable for a given assignment.