Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

How do you know you have found a scholarly article?

When searching, you may find articles from peer-reviewed journals like abstracts, summaries, opinion pieces, book reviews that are not what your instructor requires.

It can take several months to a year for a journal article to be published; this timeline provides a look at the process. Remember that when selecting a topic that requires scholarly journal articles.

A thumbnail of the What Is a Scholarly Article? infographic
here to find out more

Here are things to look for when searching for scholarly articles:

Title and Author:

  • The person(s) who wrote the article and their credentials.
    • Use this information to decide if the author(s) is qualified to write about this topic.
    • You can also see what perspective the author is writing from (nursing, science, psychology).


  • Summary of the entire article.
    • Use this information to decide if this article is relevant to your topic.
  • In library databases, keywords or subject hyperlinks are there to help you find similar articles within that database.
  • **An abstract is not a journal article. Articles that are only a few paragraphs long are most likely abstract or an article that is news, opinion or review.


  • The bulk of the article. The body of the article lets you know several things:
    • The research question the author(s) is asking.
    • The benefits or findings this research is hoping to achieve
    • The sources the author used when writing the article including:
        • Prior experience or experiments.
        • Literature review (reading other authors’ work on the topic).
  • Journal articles can be as short as 3 pages to over 20 pages long, so start your research early!


  • Many articles, especially scientific or medical articles, may include a research component.
    • The author(s) must list the complete methodology or all steps used to conduct this research.
    • This is important because others should be able to review or recreate the author(s) findings to verify the science is valid.
  • All data should be included in the research. The 5 W’s and How are answered here.
  • Use articles published within the last 3-5 years when conducting medical or scientific research. This ensures you are not looking at outdated information.
    • Articles with invalid information are retracted from journals, but may resurface on websites.


  • These are the citations for all materials the author(s) used to write the paper.
    • Think of it like the Reference or Works Cited page at the end of a research paper.
  • You may wish to use these references to find other articles to continue your research.