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Research Guides

ENGL 199D / ENVIR 100: Interdisciplinary Writing/Natural Science (Miller): Peer Review and Scholarly Sources

Peer Review

Scholarly books and articles are "scholarly" because they have gone through a vetting process called peer review. The peer review process basically happens like this:

  1. a researcher or scholar writes a book or article in his or her subject specialty;
  2. The scholar submits the text to a scholarly publisher;
  3. The scholarly publisher finds other scholars (expert peers) in the same field and asks them to read and review the article or book for errors and to make sure that it is academically rigorous (often steps 2 and 3 are repeated as the reviewers find errors or weak arguments, which forces the scholar to revise parts of the book or article and resubmit it for publishing);
  4. Finally, once the author's "peers" conclude that the text is a legitimate work of scholarship, it is published.

Why is this important for you?

The information in a scholarly text is more reliable and credible than information in popular sources like newspapers and magazines.

Also, scholarly books and articles tell you a lot about common arguments and ways of thinking used by scholars in a particular discipline.When you are writing a paper or giving a presentation on a topic in that discipline, it is helpful for you to be aware of those arguments and ways of thinking.

Scholarly, Popular, or Professional/Trade Journal?

Here are some tips on how to distinguish scholary journals from other periodicals (developed by the UW Bothell Librarians):


Scholarly Sources

 Professional or Trade Sources

 Popular Sources


American Journal of Psychology

Journal of the American Medical Association 

American History Review Quarterly   

Advertising Age

Education Week

Supply and Demand Chain Executive

Health Insurance Underwriter Magazine

Psychology Today


National Geographic




Scholars, researchers and students

Other members of the profession or trade

General audience, all readers


Scholars, researchers, and experts in the field of study

Author's credentials in the field are established (e.g., institutional affiliation, maybe degrees)

Members of the profession or trade, specialized journalists, or technical writers

Credentials are usually not provided


Reporters, usually not experts on the subject

Authors may not have special qualifications for writing article; credentials are usually not provided


Sources cited in footnotes and/or bibliography

Usually extensive list of references

Documentation of sources is not required, though sometimes brief bibliographies of further readings are included

Sources are not cited or cited informally

No reference list provided


Field-specific language/jargon; requires reader to be previously informed about field.

Include jargon and terms that are commonly used in the profession or trade

Written in everyday language accessible to any general reader


To report results of original research, experimentation or analysis


Provide practical information for members of a profession or industry, including topics like news, trends, products, and research summaries

Provide broad, general information and entertainment

Secondary but not "original" research (the author didn’t conduct the actual lab work, math, or theoretical analysis.)


Dense text-based pages
May contain complicated graphs or charts
Usually will not include color glossy pages or photographs
Very little advertising, if any

Moderate number of advertisements targeted to the interests of the members of a profession, industry, or organization

Attractive appearance – colorful
Heavily illustrated
Glossy paper