Scholarly journal articles are written by experts in an academic field. Most experts have advanced degrees such as Ph.D., Ed.D., LL.D, etc. In addition to conducting research, a high percentage of these experts teach at colleges and universities such as Siena College. Look for the author's credentials.
The primary purpose of these articles is to share original research with other scholars, experts in the same or related disciplines. As a college student, you will be expected to locate, read, and make use of scholarly journal articles.
Articles use discipline-specific vocabulary. If you are new to a field of study, it is expected that you may need to look-up unfamiliar terminology.
Articles tend to be much longer than those written for general readers.
Scholarly journal articles are well-documented. Look for footnotes, end notes, or in-text citation. There should also be a bibliography, often referred to as a works cited page or references. If the documentation is not there, it does not matter who wrote the article or what journal it appeared in. It is not a scholarly journal article. Perhaps it is an essay.
Scholarly journals often include book reviews, essays, and letters to the editor. These are not scholarly articles.
An abstract (paragraph that summarizes an article) at the beginning of an article is almost always an indication that you are looking at a scholarly journal article. In the sciences and social sciences, abstracts are almost always required. However, in the humanities (e.g. literature, philosophy, and religion) many scholarly articles do not include abstracts.
All peer-reviewed articles are scholarly, but not all scholarly articles are peer-reviewed.
Peer-reviewed is the process by which a journal article gets accepted (or rejected) for publication. After an author submits an article to a peer-reviewed journal, an editor sends the article to other experts (usually two or three) in the discipline who critique the article, and then make a recommendation on whether the article merits publication. Often the reviewers suggest changes to be made before the article can be published. The author will generally make the changes and then resubmit the article for consideration. This process is done without the reviewers knowing the name of the author, and the author not knowing the names of the reviewers. The peer-review process ensures that only the best scholarship gets published.