Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Trocaire College Libraries

How to identify a scholarly article

This guide will include the 6 important elements of a scholarly article.

How do you know that the article is the right type of article for college-level research?

  • Appears in a scholarly source (see Scholarly vs. Popular Sources)/ and editorial process
  • Author(s) credentials
  • Abstract and other sections such as review, discussion, results, etc.
  • Specialized language
  • Research conducted (not in all articles)
  • In-text citations and References

Scholarly Journal

Are periodicals in which information related to an academic discipline is published.

  • Most scholarly journals include what is known as peer-reviewed or refereed content
  • Peer-reviewed means that the articles were read and approved by a group of experts before publishing in the journal. These experts are usually scholars in the same field as the author of the article
  • Journals may have:
  1. Research articles also known as empirical, primary, study or original research. These are primary sources
  2. Review articles that critically evaluate knowledge in the field. They may propose new direction for research and/or practice in a field. It adds to and shapes the scholarly conversations
  3. Theoretical articles are ones that contribute to the theoretical foundations of a field
  4. Book reviews and editorials


Check their credentials:

  • Authors usually have advanced degrees (PhD, MD, etc.) in the subject covered by the journal
  • Authors are usually experts affiliated with a university, research institute, professional association
  • They basically have the expertise to write an article on a particular topic


An abstract is a summary of the entire article. It will appear at the beginning of the article.

  • Use the information found in the abstract to decide if the article is exactly what you need
  • When using a library database often the article's abstract will appear in the results
  • The abstract usually includes a broad overview of the article, the "problem", the approach and the new contributions of the article's findings to the field

Body of article

The body of the article may have several sections depending on the type of article:

  • Introduction: This usually mentions what the author(s) hope to find, the thesis statement of the article and the knowledge added to the field
  • Literature review: This is presenting other authors' works on the subject. It may also mention how this article fits into the conversation of knowledge in the field
  • Discussion: Here you will find why the author thinks the findings are important to the field
  • Methods: Details of the study (see below)
  • Results: Detailed graphs, statistics or charts
  • Conclusion
  • References, Cited works or bibliography

The body will also have:

  • In- text citations
  • Vocabulary or professional jargon of the academic discipline


Many scholarly articles include a research component. These types of articles are "research articles":

  • An original research article is a type of journal article that describes a study, survey or experiment
  • Additional aspects of the article may include:

    • Procedures/methods: explains how the research was conducted

    • Analysis/Results: what was learned from the research. Here you will find the charts, graphs, tables and mathematical documentation of the study

    • Discussion: examines how the results relate to past research as well as how they can be applied to future research. Usually mentions why the study was significant


This is the list of sources used in writing the article:

  • Think of it as the Reference page (APA) or Works Cited page (MLA) at the end of a research paper that you wrote
  • Use these references to find other articles that may relate to your topic
  • These, like in-text citations, give credit to the original research of a source

For more information, ask a librarian!

revised March 2021; updated November 2022