Articles give you a short focused treatment of up-to-date content. The articles in scholarly journals go through a peer-review process -- the articles are reviewed by academics and other experts before publication. The result is information that is more reliable. As well as containing scholarly information, journal articles can include reports, reviews of current research, editorials and news or updates.
Use articles from scholarly journals when you need original authoritative research on a topic; articles and essays written by scholars or subject experts; factual documented information to reinforce a position; or references that point you to other relevant research.
Scholarly journals are published more quickly than books, although the peer-review process can be lengthy.
(A Tapestry of Time and Terrain, Vigil et al, 2000, USGS Investigations Series 2720.)
What kind of information do you need? If you are writing for a class assignment, you may be required to use peer-reviewed ("refereed") or scholarly sources. In any case, you should always look for sources that are authoritative.
Scholarly Checklist -- Look for:
Authoritative Checklist -- A source can have authority even if it isn't scholarly.
Other Criteria to Consider -- These are not definitive, but worthy of consideration: