(adapted from LOEX 2008 wiki)
What is a Scholarly Article or Book?
A scholarly article or book generally is based on original research or experimentation. It is written by a researcher or expert in the field who is often affiliated with a college or university. Most scholarly writing includes footnotes and/or a bibliography and may include graphs or charts as illustrations as opposed to glossy pictures. In addition, articles that appear in scholarly journals or book that are published by academic presses, are subject to a peer-review process, which means that other "experts" or specialist in the field evaluate the quality and originality of the research as precondition of publication.
The peer-review (as opposed to editorial review) process is also one thing that sets scholarly journals apart from journals that may otherwise seem quite similar. Journals such as Foreign Affairs, for instance, are generally not considered "scholarly journals," because many of the articles are solicited by the magazine's editors; in addition many of the articles are written by policy-makers who may be expressing an informed view, but whose article may not be based on original research.
Scholarly research is typically published by a academic association or a university/academic press.
If you find yourself confused as to what kind of article your professor wants you to gather for that paper, use this handy chart to determine if you are looking at an academic or popular article.
Most of the items in the chart can also apply to books. Ask some of the following questions:
Who is the author and is s/he an expert? Read the book jacket or information often located in the beginning or end of the book. Try Google or Amazon to see what else the author might have written and to check his affiliation. Check the online catalog to see if the library has other items written by the author.
Who is the publisher? Do they have a specialty? University presses, some societies, and some associations usually publish academic titles, but some other publishers do as well. Visit their website to see their focus.
Is there a bibliography, references or footnotes?
What is the language of the book? Is it technical or is it for the general public.
Is it well-organized with a clear structure? Does it have a preface, a table of contents, an introduction, an index?