If you aren't sure whether an article you've found is scholarly, look for the following signs:
Is the article from a peer-reviewed or scholarly journal? If so, chances are that you've found an academic article. However, be sure that what you've found is indeed an article, not a book review, editorial, letter to the editor, or other section that may be published in such journals.
An abstract is a brief summary of the article. Most academic articles will begin with an abstract. This is what you should read during your initial search to see whether something is a good source.
Scholarly articles are usually written by people who are associated with universities or research institutes. The author's affiliation should be listed in the database as well as on the article itself (usually on the first page).
The language in academic articles is scholarly, which means that the language used is formal and specialized to the field of the study.
Charts, Graphs, and Tables (in some fields)
In some fields, another sign of a scholarly article is the presence of charts, graphs, and tables presenting data from original research done by the authors.
Academic articles contain lots of references. Academic work is not done in a vacuum; authors and researchers build on previous work. This work must be cited both in the text of the article and in a references section. The purpose of the references is twofold: to give credit to the author(s), and to allow readers of the paper to find the works cited.