Answered By: Jon Morris
Last Updated: Jan 12, 2022     Views: 389

Peer Review vs Scholarly:

'Scholarly' is a somewhat vague term but generally you can think of it as academic writing composed by scholars (typically those with degrees in the field) for the consumption of other scholars (such as university students, scientific researchers, and professors). The standards for scholarly writing are higher than for popular sources such as newspaper and magazine articles. Whereas popular articles tend towards visual appeal with tantalizing pictures, distracting advertisements, sensational headlines, and bold opinions asserted with bias, scholarly articles are typically much more sober in appearance and more reserved in their assertions, relying on just what can be exhaustively backed up by other high quality research. In short, this is the type of writing your professors expect you to use as college students. Can books also be scholarly? Yes, certainly.

This video is a helpful, fun was to better understand what peer-review is and why it matters.

When you are looking for scholarly research, here are some key points to watch out for:
-Most of the library's databases include a mix of both popular and scholarly sources (some being peer reviewed, some not)
-Scholarly writing diligently attempts to maintain objectivity in writing about the topic
-Scholarly sources reliably include detailed information for all those sources used and all assertions made (such as a bibliography or set of references)
-The authors of scholarly articles know what they are writing about: they typically have degrees and/or years of experience in the field. They make clear their credentials and professional affiliations.

You will also be required by your professors to make use of peer reviewed articles: these are scholarly articles that have been evaluated and critiqued by multiple anonymous experts in the target field of scholarship before being published. Typically you can find 'Peer Reviewed' as a refining option in most of our databases, such as those in ProQuest.

Can books be peer reviewed? While books can certainly be scholarly (look for the qualifications above), they do not go through the same blind evaluation and critiquing process as peer reviewed journal articles, so they are not generally considered peer reviewed in the same way as the articles.

Book Reviews:

Curious as how the book is regarded by critics and scholars? Try searching for book reviews in our databases. Some good choices are ProQuest Central (refine by Document Type >> Review), LexisNexis (refine under the 'Subject' categories from results), and Choice Reviews (for mostly academic books). For scholarly reviews, Project Muse and JSTOR (especially for books older than 3-5 years) are good choices. You can also limit your results to 'Reviews' (JSTOR) or 'Reviews Only' (in Project Muse). Additionally for popular books, our Novelist Plus database is a good choice, and has a powerful book suggestion (i.e., read-alike) engine. Please note that just because a book is published or is in our collection (much the same as articles), does not guarantee the objectivity and scholarly rigor or that book. We do purchase popular materials, recreational reading, fiction, as well as books with multiple viewpoints of issues.

Additionally, here are the Book Review Periodicals available in Ramsey Library's collection.

Lastly, if you are looking for more popular, generalized opinions of a book, Goodreads.comNPR BooksKirkus ReviewsPublisher's WeeklyAudible, and Amazon are all good choices. 

Have questions? Please contact a librarian: or stop by the Ramsey Reference Desk.

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