Some databases provide an option to narrow your result list to articles from peer-reviewed, scholarly, academic journals. When you select this option the database will filter out any books, articles published in popular or trade journals, audio and video files, etc. Even when you know a journal is peer-reviewed, it does not mean that every article in that journal is of a "scholarly" level and has gone through a peer review process.
Scholarly articles contain original research and are reviewed by a panel of experts before being published. However, book reviews or special feature sections, which are usually brief and offer opinions rather then original research, are not scholarly or peer-reviewed even though they may be published in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal.
Almost every search we do online is a KEYWORD search.
This means search results will have your search term anywhere on the page. This is why you often get all kinds of unrelated results in a web search. Search engines don't group pages by subject, and aren't smart enough to know when you type "achilles" you mean the tendon and not the hero of myth, or vice versa. Searches would even return items written by John A. Achilles, or companies named 'Achilles'. Keywords hit on the string of characters you type, not the meaning.
Library resources, however, are organized by SUBJECT.
Every item in the library catalog or in a library database has been assigned specific Subject Terms. This means all the resources about Achilles the hero of myth are grouped and searchable together, under a different heading than resources about the tendon. Subject terms can be a more efficient way to search since they reflect meaning, but subject terms themselves are not always obvious or intuitive.
Not sure when to search with keywords, and when to search with subjects? Use this Quick Guide:
|Scholarly Articles||Popular Articles|
|Authorship||Scholars/experts in a field. Authors are always named and their institutional affiliation is given.||Staff writers or journalists.|
|Publisher||University presses, professional associations, research organizations.||For profit corporations.|
|Review||Peer review process by other experts in the field of study.||Fact-checker and/or editor.|
|Audience||Researchers, scholars, other experts.||General public.|
|Content/Length||Usually longer, focusing on a research study, or a review of research literature in a field.||Often shorter, with a more general focus.|
|Language||Technical, discipline specific terminology.||Written for a general reader with easier vocabulary.|
|Sources||Cited in a bibliography adhering to a specific citation style (MLA, APA, etc.)||Usually not cited, and when they are, are not generally standardized.|
|Structure||Usually includes: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography.||Specific formats are not followed.|
When we think of "finding an article" we often think of newspapers or magazines. But there are several kinds of articles your assignments might require:
News - From newspapers reporting daily events (New York Times)
Magazine - Often called "popular" articles, these are general or for a specific interest (Time, Discover)
Trade - By and for specific industries (Advertising Age)
Scholarly - Reporting research, written by and for scholars and researchers (American Journal of Psychology)
See the chart below for more information on how to tell if an article is scholarly or popular.