How do I know that the article is scientific?

Published: 16 August 2016

When you write a thesis at the university, scientific articles will usually be the main sources you use. Therefore, you need to know how to determine if an article is scientific or not.

Characteristics of a scientific article

  • Scientific articles are primarily published in academic journals or conference proceedings (see characteristics of a scientific journal below)
  • A scientific article should be peer reviewed by other researchers. Sometimes it is stated in the article that it has been reviewed. Otherwise, you can visit the journal's website to find information about the review process
  • You can also see that the article is reviewed if the date it was received and the date it was accepted is stated in the article, for example:
    Received 10 August 2016
    Accepted 14 October 2016
  • The article should be written by the researcher him/herself
  • The author's institution address or other affiliation should be clearly stated
  • The article is aimed at other researchers
  • Scientific articles typically follow the accepted scientific model IMRaD: introduction, methods, results, analysis and discussion, or similarly. The reader should be able to follow and verify how the researcher has arrived at the results through the methods
  • Contains in-text citations and a reference list at the end
  • The language is scientifically using agreed terminology
  • The article is longer than a few pages
  • Usually written in English

Characteristics of a scientific journal

  • The journal's title often includes "International", "Journal", "Transactions", "Proceedings", or "Quarterly"
  • It has a serious appearance and no advertising
  • It is paginated: the journal's page numbers continue in the next issue. For example, the second issue may begin at page 123 if the first issue ended at page 122.
  • There is a "guide for authors" that specifies how articles and references are to be formatted for submission
  • The audience is academic
  • The publisher is academic

Read the journal's website to find information about the journals audience, purpose and review process. Information about peer review usually appears under headings like "About the journal" or "For authors". Remember that all the content in a scientific journal is not scientifically reviewed. The journals also include e.g. editorials, book reviews and news from the world of research.

Peer reviewed

When searching a database, you can often limit your search to scientific journals by selecting peer reviewed, or peer-reviewed journals. But even if you do, you must evaluate the article yourself to see that it really is a scientific article.