What Makes a Good Scholarly Article? 11 Qualities to Examine

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Have you ever wondered what makes a good scholarly article? If you are a student or a researcher looking to publish your first journal or scholarly article, submitting a scholarly work that fulfills the right criteria is vital.

Scholarly articles are part of an important contribution to research and academia. They contain findings, analyses, hypotheses, and theories that provide a platform for scholarly debates and promote continued academic discourse.

Academic papers disseminate scholarly findings by researchers, professors, students, universities, and other academic institutions.

They usually include studies that are thorough, comprehensive, and promote novelty in nature. The scholarly contributions are not just summary results or an opinion piece; they aim to convince readers through data analysis and research findings.

But most importantly, good scholarly articles are written with the high standards expected of research publications and exhibit qualities that promote scientific excellence.

What makes a good scholarly article?

What is a scholarly article?

A scholarly article is a piece of academic writing usually published in a scholarly journal or depository. It is typically written by academics and students pursuing education requirements and academic milestones.

A scholarly article can be written by one author or more.

A group of researchers from different academic disciplines (and institutions) can collaborate in writing a scholarly article. For example, a publication on an excavated archaeological site may be contributed by a team consisting of archeologists, anthropologists, and physicists.

Scholarly articles are scholarly because they provide new knowledge to the academic and research fraternity that can expand into different research branches or discoveries. Think of academic publishing that bridges the past to the future.

An article published in a high-impact or reputable journal would have undergone a comprehensive peer review process by experienced researchers and underwent a series of revisions to ensure it addressed all the shortcomings and recommendations.

Therefore, a published scholarly article is a reliable and credible source for reference by other researchers.

Scholarly articles also represent the scholarly opinion of an author or authors on a scholarly contribution. They must, therefore, adhere to scholarly writing standards and compliance requirements.

What types of scholarly articles are there?

Journal articles can also be of different types. The most common are called original articles. Other types include reviews, book reviews, case studies, case reports, short communications, etc.

Different journals publish different types of scholarly contributions depending on the field, its branch, or its discipline. The journal’s editorial board, headed by the editor-in-chief, is responsible for determining the types of publication by the journal.

A good journal practices outstanding journal management practices, including a strong reviewers database, credible editorial board, transparent policies, and clear submission guidelines.

High-impact journals also showcase strong journal metrics such as high Impact Factor (those indexed in Web of Science), high CiteScore (Scopus database), and indexed in top quartiles of major databases (quartiles 1 and 2).

Different journals also have different publishing models. The two most common are traditional subscription-based and open access models.

How long should a scholarly article be?

The length of a scholarly article varies largely on several factors. These factors include the topic of research, scholarly field or discipline, and journal requirements.

For instance, a science journal I handled before required an original article to be between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Short communications can be shorter than 3,000 words.

On the other hand, a humanities journal I was handling requires a minimum of 5,000 words and a maximum of 10,000. As an author, you will need to comply with the depth of content as required by the journal you are submitting.

What makes a good scholarly article?

So, what makes a good scholarly article?

Following are 11 qualities that your scholarly article needs to have to be considered a high-quality academic contribution.

1. Follows a scholarly structure

A good scholarly article should follow a scholarly structure. This structure includes the title, author’s information, abstract, keywords, main text, references, and appendices in that particular order.

The article title is highly important because it gives readers the main idea of the entire scholarly article. The author’s name and academic affiliation are usually placed at the beginning of an article, right below or above the scholarly article title. Authors are listed with their corresponding affiliations.

The abstract summarizes an academic contribution, having about 200 to 400 words in length (just some rough guidelines; different journals have different length requirements).

An abstract provides a scholarly introduction, presents a problem statement, and outlines research goals to the readers.

Keywords are also crucial for search purposes. When a journal has a high number of articles or is indexed in databases with a high volume of publications, you need to use the right keywords so that your article is visible and can be easily discovered.

The main text should describe scholarly contributions clearly in an organized manner with appropriate headings and subheadings that form the body of an academic article.

The scholarly article’s main text typically begins with a scholarly introduction that provides the scholarly context of the scholarly problem or gap to be solved or filled by scholarly contributions.

The content highlight will be the results and discussion, and the conclusion will summarize the research findings.

The last part, the references list, should include all scholarly sources cited in the main text and other relevant sources so readers can further consult them for additional information. References must be accurate and complete.

2. Provides adequate analysis of the literature review

A scholarly article is usually written for those researching in the same field as the author. In preparing the publication, you should make an adequate analysis of other works carried out and published in the literature.

In the literature review section, you should discuss and cite several works that influenced your research and articulate why you chose the research works in the literature review. You can also assess the strengths and the weaknesses of the works cited and briefly explain how your publication can contribute to the existing literature.

The literature review is also important for you to identify the “research gap,” i.e., areas that have not been scientifically covered that you can address with scholarly contributions.

3. Undergoes a peer review process

A good, quality journal incorporates a peer-review process in the workflow.

In academic publishing, peer review plays a vital role as a check-and-balance mechanism to ensure only reliable and credible research goes through the vast academic literature.

In peer review, journal manuscripts are assessed, evaluated, and critiqued by scholarly individuals who have expertise in your topic. The process is intended to improve scholarly manuscripts before they are published as scholarly publications.

The areas evaluated by peer reviews include research novelty (or originality), methodology, results and analysis, and language. Reviewers will also put your manuscript through a plagiarism tool to ensure that you did not copy other people’s works and that your work has not been published elsewhere.

The outcome of a peer-review process can be one of the following: minor revision, major revision, or rejection. A journal can accept manuscripts requiring revisions (major or minor) once you have addressed all the necessary comments by reviewers.

Sometimes, a reviewer does not have a choice other than recommending rejection when they feel the submitted manuscript did not meet the publication standard.

Rejections in a scholarly journal are a common occurrence. At one point in time, I had to craft and send rejection emails every few days. Hence, when your manuscript gets rejected, please don’t take it too hard.

4. Complies with the journal’s in-house style

When preparing your manuscript for a journal, ensure that you read the submission guidelines thoroughly and follow all the stipulated regulations.

You also need to ensure that your manuscript meets the visual requirements (presenting charts, graphics, and visuals with certain resolutions, etc.).

Other submission guidelines for a high-quality journal also include the following:

  • Good and clean language. Ensure your manuscript has gone through thorough language editing and clean-up. Where necessary, engage a professional editor to look at your manuscript language.
  • Adhere to the citation and reference style. What formatting standard does the journal use? Chicago Manual of Style? APA Style? Or is it in-house style? Different formatting standards have different styles. So, pay attention.
  • Follow the heading, sub-heading, and overall structure format. If the journal provides a manuscript template, make sure you use it and follow the format.

5. Complete and accurate bibliographic information

Based on my own experience, one of the most common mistakes overlooked by many authors is providing incomplete and inaccurate bibliographic details.

Sometimes, they cite the wrong year and the wrong author. Many of the publications were also incomplete (publication title, journal name, page numbers, and so on).

These details may sound unimportant, but providing accurate and complete bibliographic information will ensure that all works cited can be found and properly credited.

Would you want your scholarly article cited with your name missing? No, right?

6. Original research

A good scholarly article needs to be an original work that has not been published before in other journals or other types of publications.

Publishing unoriginal work is against academic publishing ethics and may land you in trouble. If a journal finds out that your article is not original, the editorial will retract it from the publication and may ban you from publishing further works.

The publisher may also make an official complaint to your institution or your department about your behavior. As a result, you may face disciplinary actions that would further tarnish your image as a researcher.

Therefore, keep in mind that you only submit original research for your next scholarly work.

7. Offers a scholarly contribution to knowledge

A scholarly article must offer scholarly contributions through research work that has been done, developing ideas, and presenting results of the scholarly work undertaken by the author(s).

A good scholarly article should communicate scholarly contribution clearly, concisely, and without unnecessary or complicated scholarly jargon.

At the same time, scholarly articles should maintain a professional, academic tone and presentation style, including scholarly references to present scholarly knowledge. They also need to be accessible for those outside your academic field as well as those within it.

8. Confirms or debunks theories and hypotheses

A scholarly article should present new findings and information about the scholarly topic investigated. Based on your methodological findings, assert if the results confirm the existing theories.

Otherwise, present adequate evidence if your findings appear to debunk theories or hypotheses provided by earlier researchers. Your new hypothesis, if proven by other future researchers, may transform your research field.

Additionally, a good scholarly article should discuss the work done and encourage others to build on that work for future scholarly research. Always think of promoting your research, even if it is to be done by other people.

9. Addresses shortcomings

A scholarly article should address issues related to the scholarly topic investigated that currently lack scholarly information. Sometimes, you cannot conduct your experiment based on the ideal criteria you earlier planned or expected.

For example, you could not find the optimum number of samples due to unforeseen circumstances. Or you could not get the control samples in specified conditions. Some sampling works cannot be completed by schedule due to extreme weather, like in the Arctic or Antarctica.

State the reasons and indicate how you can improve the experiments and the future results if other researchers want to pursue it.

10. Cites recent works

A scholarly article should cite recent scholarly works on the scholarly topic being discussed. Doing so can explain scholarly information more objectively rather than just repeating what has been said before.

Remember that a credible research publication refers to equally credible external sources.

Citing recent scholarly works will also show that your work is not outdated or redundant. You are currently advancing existing knowledge by including scholarly works as of date.

11. Published in a credible, high-impact journal

Finally, good scholarly articles are published in high-impact journals showcasing credible metrics and performance.

A high-impact journal is an established journal with a clear publication scope, strong editorial team, sound workflow and transparent journal policies.

A common indicator used to measure the impact of a scholarly journal is by looking at the databases the journal is indexed. Web of Science and Scopus are the two major journals scholars often seek to publish in.

There are presently more than 30,000 active scholarly journals in the world. You will need to do your diligence in identifying the right journal to publish and only choose quality journals.

But, getting published in a high-impact journal is not easy. Because many researchers want to publish in quality journals, the rejection rate of a credible journal is high. For instance, one of the scholarly journals I managed before had a 95% rejection rate per year.

Therefore, you need to ensure that the manuscript you are submitting to a good journal not only complies with the minimum requirements but goes beyond the extra mile by giving the journal high values that warrant a publication.

Concluding remark

A good scholarly article is original research, is structured well, complies with the submission, cites relevant scholarly sources, analyzes theories (and confirms or debunks them), and is published in a high-impact journal.

Your scholarly article must contain valuable and new scholarly contributions that can advance existing knowledge. All results and assertions should be clearly and concisely presented based on the methodological findings.

A quality academic article also addresses gaps and shortcomings in making contributions to research and academia.

More importantly, prime your scholarly article for high visibility among other scholars to promote research expansion and scientific discoveries.