What Are Academic Journals? Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly Journal Articles Explained.

You may heard academics or post-graduate students casually talk about things such as getting published in academic journals, or how their papers are stuck in peer-review process. 

If you are new in the academic world, these terms can be confusing, and intimidating. What are academic journals, and how are they different from regular journals?

An academic journal presents peer-reviewed, scholarly research articles written by researchers and academics. They often focus on a specific academic discipline, ensuring the spreading of valid, credible knowledge within the scholarly community.

In this post, we explore what are academic journals, and how processes such as peer-reviewing for research articles work.

Unlocking the Scholarly World: What Are Academic and Scholarly Journals?

Academic journals, sometimes known as peer-reviewed journals, stand as robust pillars in the scholarly community, acting as forums for the dissemination and discussion of research.

They navigate through the sea of knowledge, bringing the most meticulous and quality research to the forefront of academia.

An academic journal serves as a periodical publication, often accessible through library databases, which encapsulates articles written meticulously by experts in a particular field of study.

Research articles, often brimming with jargon and complex terminology, are submitted to the journal, and here enters the critical stage of peer review.

The article is scrutinised for its:

  • Reliability
  • Validity, and
  • Adherence to the stringent standards set by the particular academic discipline.

Notably, articles undergo rigorous evaluation by an editorial board and peer reviewers, ensuring that only the best quality, evidence-supported research makes its way through to publication.

The authors, often scholars or specialists in a domain, present their findings, frequently using graphs or tables to provide a visual representation of data, aiding in the conveyance of their research outcomes.

It’s worth noting that every detail, from the research methodology to the sources of information cited, is meticulously detailed, providing a transparent and replicable outline of their study.

Each article within an academic journal substantiates its findings with:

  • Supporting evidence, and
  • Citation details, usually at the end of the article.

Citations ensure a pathway for further research and exploration for avid readers and fellow researchers. They also serve as a tool to validate the article’s content and provide a wealth of knowledge in the form of supporting and preceding studies.

Whether through free access or library subscriptions, these scholarly articles are often housed in databases, providing a searchable trove of knowledge, cutting across various fields, from humanity to quantitative social sciences.

The articles published in these journals are a distillation of rigorous research, extensive review, and strict scrutiny, ensuring that scholars and academics are presented with reliable, pertinent, and paramount research findings.

Peer Review Unmasked: The Evaluation Process of Journal Articles

Initial Quality CheckThe journal screens the article for plagiarism, formatting adherence & citations.
Author ModificationsIf required, authors modify their work to align with journal benchmarks.
Editorial EvaluationAn editor, an expert in the field, evaluates the article’s merit & alignment with the journal’s scope.
Peer Review CoordinationThe editor coordinates the peer review process, steering it through reviews from scholars.
Reviewers’ EvaluationAnonymous reviewers critically evaluate the content, highlight shortcomings, and suggest revisions.
Post-Revision ReviewIf necessary, the article may undergo further review after revisions.
Editor’s Final DecisionThe editor makes the final call on the article’s publication status.
Publication OutcomeIf accepted, the article is published.

Once a research article hits the desk of an academic journal, the wheels of a carefully calibrated process begin to turn, steering it through a meticulous evaluation crucial to safeguard the reliability and quality of scholarly publications.

Initially, the journal conducts a rigorous quality check, scrutinising for:

  • Plagiarism
  • Formatting adherence
  • Citations
  • And more.

This phase may require authors to modify their work, ensuring it aligns with certain pre-established benchmarks prior to further examination.

Upon passing this threshold, an editor, typically a seasoned scholar or an expert in the particular academic discipline, becomes the shepherd of the article, evaluating; 

  • The article’s merit
  • Ensuring it aligns with the journal’s scope, and
  • Coordinating the peer review process. 

The role of the editor is pivotal in maintaining the balance, ensuring the journal article adheres to a standard, and steering it through the review from other scholars in the field.

Reviewers, often anonymous, are tasked with the critical evaluation of the content, providing feedback on possible shortcomings, and suggesting revisions, ensuring that the scholarly articles uphold a standard of high-quality research.

This rich tapestry of scrutiny, which can range from two to twelve weeks, is pivotal to maintaining the robustness of academic research published in journals.

In this cautious dance, an article may be revisited by reviewers post-revision, ensuring modifications are both apt and satisfactory, before the editor makes the final call on its publication status.

This process, veiled in confidentiality and strict procedural adherence, ensures that the research articles published in scholarly journals are not only reliable but also a substantial addition to the respective field of study.

This intricate process underscores a commitment to the dissemination of quality, reliable knowledge, fortifying the walls of academia with credible, thoroughly evaluated research.

Every peer-reviewed article in a library or a database has undergone this meticulous evaluation, ensuring that the scholarly and scientific communities have access to information that adheres to a rigorous standard.

It’s a meticulous journey from submission to publication, safeguarding the integrity of academic discourse and research, fundamentally underpinning the scholarly ecosystem with trust and veracity.

Wrapping Up: Are Academic Journals And Scholarly Articles The Same?

In this article, we looked at what are academic journals, and how the peer-review process works to evaluate research articles. It is a long and winding process, but a worthy one, especially when you see your papers making it into the research community.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.