I am looking into applying to a teaching position at a liberal-arts institution. The application page asks for an example of scholarly work. What are good examples of scholarly work? For the sciences, is this like published articles?

  • Google does a good job of this along with the replies from our learned colleagues below. It is quite discipline specific rather than institution specific whether it be a liberal arts or other type of institution - en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Scholarly_work
    – Poidah
    Oct 8, 2019 at 1:56

4 Answers 4


“Scholarly work” in academia generally refers to papers and books, with potentially other forms of formally released output (e.g., patents, or source code on a public repository) being included. In the sciences this expression is slightly quaint and not often used, but can be useful when one wants to speak not just about one’s published papers but about a broader body of work that includes other things.

It’s also possible that some people would count other forms of written, but informal or less polished work (like a blog post, or your own highly prolific physics.se contributions), as “scholarly work”, but personally I wouldn’t, and generally I would be very careful about describing anything as scholarly work that I wasn’t sure the person I’m addressing would accept as such, particularly in a job application. (With that being said, your physics.se writing is really nice and says good things about you, so you should probably mention it somewhere, for example in your teaching statement).


For sciences, scholarly work means peer-reviewed publications. Conference papers count if they are peer reviewed.

In other disciplines, it can mean different things.

  • 1
    Right. They might be writing broadly because a similar form is used by many departments. For instance, in some disciplines, they may curate a museum exhibit and produce a an exhibit catalogue (these are book-length). This would be a form of scholarly work.
    – Dawn
    Oct 8, 2019 at 3:15
  • This may be true for other universities but it is too narrow for Liberal Arts Colleges (in the US, anyway).
    – Buffy
    Oct 8, 2019 at 9:57

I had a colleague (UK Lecturer in Computer Science) recently define scholarly work as academic work not involving any new ideas, but new presentations and synthesis of established knowledge.

In particular, I believe they included:

  • (text)books
  • survey / overview / white papers on particular application domains, tools or research directions
  • (to a lesser extent) reviewing for journals

I actually can't remember if they included things such as editorial duties for journals in this or not, but this short list should give a good idea on what kinds of things they considered under "scholarly work".

This is very similar to Dan Romnik's answer but with "standard" papers explicitly excluded. To elaborate a bit more, my colleague placed scholarly work as an activity (with the outputs as listed above) falling between teaching (where the outputs are graduate students*) and research (where the outputs are peer-reviewed publications, newly developed technologies, etc.).

*I am not very fond of "graduate students" being called the output of teaching activities, however the general feeling one gets from UK University policies is that they are product and profit-oriented businesses (with tuitions as inputs and students with diplomas as an expected output), and less and less as charitable educational institutions which they are on paper.


The best example is some sort of research. In many such institutions the best research is something that undergraduates can participate in. In some fields such as math this is easier, requiring less in the way of equipment. In others it may be impossible other than by, say taking a leave to go to CERN for particle physics. But the research should result in some sort of writing, even if not up to the standards of top journals.

But at the other end of the scale is just "keeping up with the field" through reading and attendance (maybe with participation) at conferences. It can vary widely. In CS there are a number of regional conferences at which people participate. Most of the work done for these is about the teaching itself and how to do it effectively. They are very valuable as the field changes and grows.

At a somewhat higher level is participation in an internet based study group that works on some set of problems in the field collaboratively and may produce occasional papers. But the collaboration itself is valuable for people at such colleges as it gives you access to a wider range of ideas that you can bring back to the classroom, which is, likely, your most important task.

Running a study group on some topic with a couple of faculty and a few more advanced students is a good example. Read and discuss a few recent papers (or classic papers) and show the students how to approach learning about the arcana of the field.

In some fields even non-scholarly writing may be "scholarly". If you teach writing, then writing novels will probably do.

Becoming a popularizer of science and becoming known for it is usually recognized. Textbook writing - even workbook writing may be enough.

In the best case, you get to set the terms yourself by proposing a course of development to the administration and then following it.

  • Thanks for the many different examples. So then, if I were submitting "an example of scholarly work", what would this look like? Is it something I have already done that has something tangible that I can send in, or am I proposing examples of scholarly work I would participate in should I be in the position? Oct 8, 2019 at 0:54
  • They are looking for what you have already done, I think. But you could also add a bit about future scholarly "goals".
    – Buffy
    Oct 8, 2019 at 1:00
  • 4
    This is nearly all wrong or irrelevant. Oct 8, 2019 at 1:09
  • 1
    @AaronStevens Plans aren't worth the paper they are written on, unless there is some commitment to executing them. Saying you plan to do X in future is worthless. Having an agreement for funding to do X in future is a different matter.
    – alephzero
    Oct 8, 2019 at 9:53
  • 1
    @AnonymousPhysicist, not for a Liberal Arts College. My teaching career started in the early1970's, so I have some knowledge of this.
    – Buffy
    Oct 8, 2019 at 9:55

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