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Ecology, Environmental Science and Botany: What are Peer Reviewed, Academic and Scholarly Articles?

What does Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, or Academic mean?

While you are in school, you will hear a variety of professors use these terms when asking you to find articles, but they are for the most part asking you to look in the same type of source.

A Peer Reviewed, Scholarly, or Academic journal is a publication, published periodically (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.) which contains original research by scholars, professors, or experts. They differ from magazines and newspapers in a variety of ways.

The chart below illustrates how scholarly journals differ from general, popular magazines.




Journalist; lay person. Author unknown. May be a scholar but not in the field covered.

Expert (scientist, researcher, professor, etc.) in the field covered. Author is identified.


Few or no references or notes.

Includes notes and/or bibliography.


A corporation.

An academic institution, research organization, or professional association.

Writing Style

Journalistic, written for the average reader.

Written for experts and scholars.


Reviewed by magazine employees.

Editorial board of outside scholars who review the article before publishing.


Current events; general interest.

Research topics.


Usually weekly or monthly.

Usually quarterly or monthly


*Brief articles

*Many advertisements

*Many illustrations in color

*Many Photographs

*Few Charts, graphs, tables and diagrams

*Articles not summarized

*Long articles

*Few advertisements, if any

*Most illustrations in black and white

*Few photographs

*Many charts, graphs, tables and diagrams

*Articles often summarized; this summarization is called an ABSTRACT

Where to buy

An individual issue may be purchased at a bookstore supermarket at a nominal cost

Requires a subscription or membership in a professional association. Subscriptions can be expensive, often hundreds of dollars.

Understanding & Identifying Peer-Reviewed Articles in 5 Minutes.

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Getting started with Academic Search Complete and EBSCOhost

Norco College Library subscribes to about 40 databases, each containing hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of peer-reviewed scholarly sources. Two of the most popular are JSTOR and Academic Search Complete.

Academic Search Complete is available through a vendor called EBSCO. EBSCO includes many other databases in our collection, some may be more specific to you your needs. See our complete list of Databases by Subject.

If you do use any database from EBSCO, be sure to check the "Full Text" button, and if your professor asks for a "Scholarly" "Peer Reviewed" or "Academic" Journal, check the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals box, like below:

What about Google Scholar? You can now use Google scholar to find articles located in our EBSCO databases (like Academic Search Complete) and JSTOR. Be aware that you may find that other articles have limited availability, or will allow access with a fee. If you have any questions or need some more help, call us at 951-372-7115, email us at, or visit us at the reference desk.