Skip to main content

Scholarly Sources: Scholarly Sources

Navigation

Use the links below to navigate to a different section of this guide.

What is a scholarly source?

College assignments often require that students use "scholarly sources". What is a scholarly source and where can you find one?

Scholarly sources are articles or books written by academic or professional experts, documenting new research findings, new interpretations or new theoretical analysis, in order to advance a society's knowledge or understanding of the subject. They are written for the benefit of other experts and students of the subject. Scholarly sources present statistical data and comprehensive citations so the reader can verify for him- or herself the evidence for any claim made by the author(s).

Scholarly sources are usually authoritative, evidence-based, well-sourced and as objective as possible. When properly written and published, they do not try to sell or promote anything, nor do they try to provoke an emotional reaction.

Scholarly articles are published in journals - normally monthly or quarterly publications on very narrow subject areas. Journals and journal articles are expensive for individuals to purchase, so the LSC Library arranges subscriptions for all students and faculty that make it affordable to access this important study material.

Popular sources may be useful, or even required, for some college assignments. Examples of popular sources are newspapers, magazines, blogs and documentary films. Popular sources can be useful for information on current affairs or for basic information that helps you to familiarize yourself with a subject. However, they do not have the authority, evidence or depth of analysis that scholarly sources have.

Popular or Scholarly -- What's the Difference?

Popular Scholarly

Authors:

  • Usually reporters or freelance writers.
  • Their names may not appear.
  • Credentials usually not given.
  • Were not directly involved in the ideas, events or work they are reporting.

 

Audience:

  • Written for a large, general audience, including people who are unfamiliar with the subject.

 

Language:

  • Simple and non-technical.
  • May be artistic, emotive or polemical.

 

Appearance & Content:

  • Designed to appeal to the reader's interest: may use eye-catching headlines, colors, photographs and illustrations.
  • Pages usually contain advertisements.
  • Usually do not cite sources or list references.

 

Information checking:

  • Content is evaluated by editors who are journalists, not experts in the field.
  • Fact-checking is careful, but not extensive.

 

Examples:

  • Popular magazines: Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, People.
  • Trade magazines: Digital Marketing, Frozen Food Digest.
  • Newspapers: New York Times, USA Today, Burlington Free Press.

 

Location:

  • Newsstands, grocery stores, bookstores.

Authors:

  • Usually researchers or scholars who hold relevant positions, normally at a college or university.
  • Are always named.
  • Academic credentials (ex. PhD, MD) are usually given.
  • Are reporting on findings or observations from their original research.

 

Audience:

  • Aimed at a narrow audience of professionals in the field, professors, researchers and students.

 

Language:

  • Technical: may use jargon or specialized terminology.
  • Serious and neutral tone.

 

Appearance & Content:

  • Illustrations are normally statistical graphs and only appear to document and support the contents of the article.
  • Limited or no advertising.
  • Often follow a predictable structure: abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, discussion, conclusion, references.

 

Information checking:

  • Articles are evaluated and edited by other experts in the field (peer-reviewed).
  • Standards for research methods, accuracy of data and strength of analysis are stringent.

 

Examples:

  • Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, American Economic Review, Journal of Comparative Neurology.

 

Location:

  • Some scholarly articles are available on the open web and can be found via search engines such as Google Scholar, but these also include large quantities of paywall-protected articles. Start at the Library website to save time!