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Get Started with Library Research

What is a Scholarly Source?

The following characteristics can identify a source as scholarly:

  • AUTHOR
    The author of the source is a scholar or expert in the field discussed, not just a journalist or "staff writer."

  • CITED SOURCES
    The source provides substantial citations, such as footnotes or a bibliography.

  • CONTENT & PURPOSE
    The source discusses a narrowly defined topic and may review existing literature concerning the topic, present new research based on experiments or archival work, or interpret a well-researched idea in a new way.

  • LANGUAGE & AUDIENCE
    The article uses technical language specific to the discipline, often requiring the reader to have scholarly background in the area.  The source is intended for scholars, researchers, and students, rather than the general public.

  • PEER-REVIEW
    The source is reviewed and edited by other experts in the discipline.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is a process through which some scholarly articles and book chapters are critically evaluated by experts with in-depth knowledge of the research area before publication in order to ensure the information is valid, credible, well-written, and of high quality.

Are you looking especially for peer-reviewed journal articles?  See Verifying Peer Review

Why Use Scholarly Sources?

Because scholarly sources are well-researched, written by experts, and discuss topics in great depth and detail, they have credibility and authority.  Using scholarly sources in your own research gives your work credibility and authority, as well.  Non-scholarly materials can also be useful and appropriate for some academic purposes, but generally scholarly sources are expected in academic research. 

Finding Scholarly Sources

Other sections in these Get Started with Library Research guides discuss how to find scholarly sources.  See the Find Information section, especially the Find Articles and Find Books pages.  The Subject Guides may help, too.  They point you toward recommended resources in each subject area, through which you can find scholarly sources. 

Need more help with this? Ask a Librarian.