Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Course & Subject Guides

Writing in the Biological Sciences - Oakland Campus: Scholarly Information

This guide is designed to help students in the BIOSC 1010 - Communication in the Biological Sciences classes.

Identifying Peer Reviewed Literature

How can you tell whether a journal is peer reviewed?

Check the introductory and descriptive material in the journal or on the journal's web site:

  • Does it state that the journal is peer reviewed?
  • Does it refer to or describe the review procedure?
  • Does it give instructions for reviewers?

Look at the article itself and any "About this article" information.

  • Does it include dates the article was Received, Accepted, and Published?
  • Is there sufficient time between receipt and acceptance to allow for review and revision of the article?

Limit your search results to peer reviewed sources, if the database includes that feature.

Remember: not all articles in a peer reviewed journal are actually peer reviewed. Editorials, letters to the editor, news, and opinion pieces, for example, are not peer reviewed.

What is Scholarly Information?

Your instructor is asking you to use scholarly sources for your research. Scholarly information is based on in-depth research and is considered to be higher quality and more reliable information for your paper. Scholarly journal articles are normally either peer reviewed or invited by the editor of the journal. Books, book chapters, and conference proceedings can also be sources of scholarly information.

Some of the common characteristics that can help you recognize different types of information sources are listed below.


  • written for professors, students, researchers, or specialists
  • written by researchers
  • identifies authors and may include institutional affiliation, professional credentials, and contact information
  • journal titles often name the subject area and may include terms like "Journal of", "Transactions", "Quarterly", or "Proceedings"
  • articles are peer reviewed or reviewed by an editorial board of experts
  • articles follow a standard format: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusions, references to cited literature
  • may include graphs, tables, or illustrations to support the research conclusions
  • uses vocabulary specific to the subject area
  • cites other articles used in the research
  • usually includes an abstract or article summary
  • very little advertising

General Audience (Popular)

  • written to appeal to a broad segment of the population
  • often written by magazine staff writers
  • articles may be unsigned
  • general editors of the magazine review articles
  • no particular format for articles
  • may be heavily illustrated with lots of photographs, glossy pictures, and bright covers
  • lots of advertising

Trade / Professional Publications

  • written to appeal to specialists in the field
  • provides information of interest and use to a particular industry or profession
  • articles may be unsigned
  • general editors of the magazine review articles
  • no particular format for articles
  • advertising is used to appeal to those in the field

Tutorial on Recognizing Scholarly Sources