Scholarly Resources

Defining Scholarly Resources

So, your professor told you that you can't use the Internet to find sources for your paper.  Instead, you have to use "Scholarly Journals" and other academic resources.  What does that mean?

This guide's intent is to shine a light on the difference between those items that are considered scholarly or academic and those that are considered popular.  This is not a negative judgment.  At times, you may even use "popular" materials in your research and writing.  However, it is important that you know the difference and understand the types of materials you are using to support the assertions in your work.

Remember, not all information is created equal.  It is up to you to use your best judgment to determine the worth, validity, and merit of a work.

It matters because, as a college or graduate student, you are a part of the larger academic community.  You can contribute to that community and converse with other learned individuals at a higher level in your subject area.


Scholarly or Academic Sources 

Their purpose is to share information within the subject field and they are based on original research and experimentation. They are suitable for academics, and are supported by a system of learning and study.  They are less widely circulated than popular sources and may be understandable only to those who work or study in a particular field. In addition, scholarly sources are juried through peer review (referee process).

Peer-Reviewed (or Refereed)

Peer review means that the editors of the journal wishing to publish the article send it to scholars in the relevant field; e.g., an article about biology will be reviewed by other biologists.  These scholars provide feedback about the article's pertinence to scholarship in their field, the quality of research, presentation of findings, and more.  This ensures that the articles in academic journals have scholastic merit and contribute to the overall research in the field. The reviews are generally blind, which means the academic peers conducting the review do not know the name of the work's author, and the author doesn't know the names of the reviewers.  This way the work is judged solely on its own merit rather than the author's reputation.

Some academic sources may be scholarly, but not peer-reviewed.

Popular sources

These sources are widely available, usually cheaper to acquire, and can be understood by almost every person with basic literacy skills.  They tend to promulgate known ideas and theories. These works may be professionally edited, but do not go through a peer-review process.