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ENGLISH 301: Evaluate Sources

What Is a Scholarly Source?

Scholarly, peer-reviewed, or refereed are sometimes used interchangeably. Scholarly sources offer original research and are written by experts in a field for a specific audience of researchers and scholars. They can be journal articles, book chapters, or books. Scholarly sources are based on rigorous research and documentation and are deemed to be of high quality and credibility. By citing scholarly sources, you join the community of scholars and practice ethical and responsible research and writing.

What Is Peer-Review?

Peer-review is a practice to ensure the quality, validity, and reliability of work before it is published. Peers are experts in the author's field of study. Peers make recommendations to the editor regarding suggestions for revisions before accepting an article for publication, or in some cases, rejection for publication. The process can be either single-blind review or double blind review. 

Watch this video and learnPeer Review in 5 Minutes

What Is the Format of Scholarly Articles?

Scholarly/peer-reviewed articles generally include the following:

Abstract: A summary of the article, subject of study, research hypothesis, methods, findings, and further questions.
Methods/Methodology: Where the author describes the research methods and tools: experiment, survey, data sources, etc.
Results/Findings: Where the author presents raw data/primary research.
Discussion/Analysis: Where the author analyzes the data, primary sources, and research.
Conclusion: Where the author draws conclusions based on the analysis.
References: List of references that author cited in the article.

How Can I Tell If My Sources Are Scholarly?

  1. Database Selection: Conduct your research in a database that offers scholarly or peer-reviewed content. Searching databases in your discipline is a great first choice.

  2. Limit/Refine: Most databases offer the features to Limit | Refine your search results to scholarly / peer-reviewed sources. 

  3. Article Type: Scholarly/peer-reviewed journals publish original research articles as well as other types of articles, such as reviews, commentary, report, letters, and obituary. Carefully read the article description to determine if your article is an original research article. 

  4. Check SourceYou can check Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to determine if a journal is peer-reviewed.

Evaluating Sources

Comparison Chart: Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed v. Other Sources

CHARACTERISTICS

SCHOLARLY JOURNALS

POPULAR MAGAZINES

TRADE MAGAZINES

ADVERTISING

Few or no advertisements
 

Extensive advertising

Extensive advertising
AUDIENCE

Scholars and college students

General; broad-based

Working Professionals
AUTHOR

Scholars & researchers

Staff and freelance writers

Professionals and staff
REFERENCES

Always include references

None

May offer a bibliography
LANGUAGE

Academic, research-oriented

Simple language

Professional terminology
LENGTH 

Can be 6-40 pages

Varies; often short

Varies, often short
DESIGN
  • Few or no pictures
  • Text w/statistics
  • Few colors
  • Extensive pictures
  • Glossy
  • Colorful
  • Extensive pictures
  • Glossy
  • Colorful
PUBLISHER

University or professional

For-profit, commercial

Professional organizations
EXAMPLES

American Journal of Sociology

Ecology and Society

American Music Teacher

Time

National Geographic

Heirloom Gardener

Poets & Writers

Astronomy

American Libraries