Research Help

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What counts as a scholarly source?

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Scholarly sources are written by academics or experts in their field of study. These sources share new research findings, theories, analyses, or summaries of current knowledge, with the intent of keeping others in the field updated on research, findings and news. 

Scholarly sources can be either primary or secondary research, and come in a variety of formats including books, articles and websites. There is a difference between scholarly and peer-reviewed articles: all peer-reviewed sources are considered scholarly, but not all scholarly sources are peer-reviewed. If you've been asked to find "scholarly" articles, make sure you clarify with your professor whether peer-reviewed articles are required.

How do you determine if your source is scholarly? If you've found a source and it is not clear whether it's peer-reviewed, consider the following criteria:

Authors

  • Does the source include the author's name?
  • Are their credentials provided?
  • Are these credentials relevant to the information provided in the article? Is there any potential bias?

Publishers

  • Who published the source?
  • Is the publisher a scholarly or professional organization? An academic institution or press?
  • What is their purpose for publishing the source?

Audience

  • Who would be the intended audience of the source? If the answer is other experts or individuals interested in the field, it may be a scholarly source.
  • Is the language geared toward the general public, or towards those with knowledge of that discipline? Scholarly sources use technical language specific to their disciplines and are not written for general audiences.

Content

  • Does the source have a stated purpose? Why is the information provided or written?
  • Does the source include citations or references to other sources on the topic?
  • Do they include charts, graphs, tables or bibliographies to support their writing?
  • Are the research claims and findings documented? Scholarly sources are typically structured with an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion and references.
  • Are the conclusions based on evidence?
  • How long is the source? 

Currency

  • When was the source published?