Scholarly Articles vs. the Web - What's the Difference?

Scholarly Article
Author Expert in the field; researcher Anyone; no credentials needed; may not disclose.
Publisher Traditional publisher; professional association, university affiliation, commercial; e.g. "Academic Press" "Modern Language Association" Anyone; self-published; may not disclose
Selection Some editorial process; may be peer-reviewed None; no checks or evaluation
Audience Readers knowledgeable in the field Anyone with a connection to the web is possible
Purpose Advance a particular field; contribute to the literature of a discipline; "publish or perish" Could be anything: personal interest, personal agenda
Documentation References, bibliographies, footnotes None required
Point of View Usually (not always!) neutral Can be slanted or biased
Access Generally for a fee; cost of printed journal subscription, printed indexing, database that contains indexing and full-text Free; only need web access



  • The "free web" is not where scholars in most disciplines publish.
  • If you use the web, you must carefully evaluate what you find.
  • The college and library pay large sums to provide access to the scholarly literature through print subscriptions and database access