Scholarly journals are also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed journals. (Strictly speaking, peer-reviewed (also called refereed) journals refer only to those scholarly journals that submit articles to several other scholars, experts, or academics (peers) in the field for review and comment. These reviewers must agree that the article represents properly conducted original research or writing before it can be published.)
To check if a journal is peer-reviewed/refereed, search the journal by title in Ulrich's Periodical Directory--look for the referee jersey icon. More on peer-reviewed journals from the University of Texas.
Scholarly journal articles often have an abstract, a descriptive summary of the article contents, before the main text of the article.
Scholarly journals generally have a sober, serious look. They often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. These bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.
Articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The affiliations of the authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article--universities, research institutions, think tanks, and the like.
The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some technical background on the part of the reader.
The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization.