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Evaluating Sources: Scholarly Sources

Guide to understanding "scholarly sources" and evaluating academic quality.

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This video focuses on the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines.

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What is a scholarly source?

What is a scholarly source?

Scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field or area of study (discipline). These sources are used by others in the same discipline to stay informed and up to date on the most recent research, research findings, and news in that discipline. You might also hear scholarly sources referred to as peer-reviewed or refereed.

What does peer reviewed mean?

Peer reviewed sources are scholarly scources that have gone through a rigorous review process by a review board of colleagues in the author's discipline. This review board evaluates the source submitted for publication to determine its value as a contribution to the body of research in that discipline. The submission may be accepted, returned for revisions, or even rejected by the review board.

Why use scholarly sources?

Using scholarly sources is an expected part of your academic course work because these sources are credible and authoritative; they are written by academically recognized experts. These types of sources will help you produce quality papers and presentations.

You are now a part of the scholarly community and need to join the scholarly conversation. Here is how it works and why these sources are important:

Building Blocks

  • Scholarship builds on previous ideas and discoveries. For example, medical care improves due to research. That research is published and/or presented. Other researchers consult this scholarship and produce their own research to be published and/or presented, etc.

Creating Pathways to Discovery

  • Researchers credit ideas and discoveries through citations and references in their papers/presentations. You, as a student researcher, also need to credit the ideas and discoveries of the researchers referenced in your own papers/presentations.

Creation of New Knowledge

  • Students write papers/present and cite previous research in their own work. They become the next generation of researchers and part of the scholarly conversation.

How can I tell if a source is scholarly?

Scholarly sources have particular characteristics as follows:

  • Articles are written by a scholar or expert in the field.
  • Scholarly journal articles and books generally have sources cited in footnotes and a bibliography (also called "works cited" or "references").
  • 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.
  • The language used in scholarly sources is typically the language used in the discipline covered.
  • Scholarly sources generally assume some prior knowledge of the topic being discussed.
  • Many scholarly journals are published by a professional organization of the discipline.
  • Many scholarly journals are "peer reviewed" or "refereed". The author of an article must submit the article for review by a panel of experts in the field to be accepted for publication.

See the next tab of this guide, Evaluation Criteria, for help evaluating your sources. For additional help evaluating books & journal articles, see the Scholarly Characteristics tab of this guide.

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