differentiate between scholarly/academic sources & peer reviewed sources

Scholarly (or academic) and peer-reviewed are often used interchangeably, but there are some minor differences between the terms. Peer-reviewed sources are scholarly, but not all scholarly sources are peer reviewed. You can think of peer-review as an extra layer of quality assurance on top of scholarly work.

A scholarly source is one that’s written by an expert in a field of study that is meant to be read by other experts or students in the field.

  • They are usually written in a way that can be difficult for those outside the field to understand, due to their academic tone and use of specialized language around the topic being discussed.
  • They are often reporting on new research or discussing issues & questions in the field.
  • The authors are often affiliated with academic institutions or institutions that focus on research and often have advanced degrees & other credentials.
  • They are published by reputable scholarly journals or publishers, not by popular journals or publishers.
    (See the Predatory Publishing guide for warning signs of non-reputable publications.)
  • Many scholarly sources are peer reviewed, but not all of them.

A peer-reviewed article is reviewed and evaluated by experts in the field who make "recommendations concerning acceptance or rejection, and revision of the article" prior to being selected by the journal editor for publication (Peek & Newby, 1996, 110).*

  • Peer reviewed articles are scholarly in nature.
  • The addition of multiple experts reviewing the article before it is published aims to ensure a higher quality end product. (See our "find peer-reviewed articles" guide for more information about locating peer reviewed sources.)

The University of Texas Libraries & ProQuest have put together helpful guides for differentiating between scholarly/academic sources and popular or trade sources. 

*Peek, R.P., & Newby, G.B. (Eds.) (1996). Scholarly publishing: The electronic frontier. The MIT Press.

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