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What Are Scholarly Sources?

May 22, 2023

Are you a student researching for an assignment or project? If so, you've probably heard the phrase "scholarly sources." But what are they, and why are scholarly sources so important to your success in school?

In academic writing, the quality of sources used is of utmost importance to maintaining the integrity and validity of your research. Scholarly sources, also known as academic or peer-reviewed sources, are written and reviewed by experts in the field and provide credible insights into a particular topic. These sources are often published in academic journals and books as well as presented at conferences. They include in-depth research, detailed analysis, and carefully cited references. Researchers rely on such sources to validate their conclusions, support their arguments, and expand their understanding of a particular subject. It is essential to distinguish scholarly sources from sources such as blogs or websites, which may lack accuracy, objectivity, and authority. Understanding the importance of scholarly sources can help you produce high-quality research and build a stronger argument. 

What Is a Scholarly Source?

What sets scholarly sources apart is that they've undergone a rigorous peer-review process by a group of experts in the field. These experts look for any flaws in the research method, findings, and conclusions before accepting the article for publication. This thorough evaluation process ensures that the information presented is trustworthy and supported by evidence.

It's crucial for students to have a vast understanding of different sources in research. This knowledge will help them enhance their analytical skills, critical thinking, and the quality of their academic work. There are two main types of research sources available: primary and secondary. Primary research involves collecting data directly from sources. Examples of primary research include surveys, interviews, and experiments. Secondary research involves analyzing existing data that has already been collected and published by other researchers or organizations. The type of research that is appropriate for a given study depends on various factors, including the research question, available resources, and the time frame for completion. While primary research may lead to more accurate and specific data, secondary research can provide valuable insights and save time and resources.  

Scholarly Sources vs. Other Sources

When it comes to conducting research, it's essential to know how to identify and cite credible scholarly sources. Scholarly sources like academic journals and books written by experts in the field undergo a rigorous peer-review process to ensure that the information they present is accurate and up to date. They also tend to be more objective than other sources, which may have a specific agenda or bias. Non-scholarly sources may include news articles, blogs, and websites, which may not necessarily be fact-checked or reviewed by experts. While these sources can still provide helpful information, perspectives, and ideas, it's important to approach them critically and verify the information's accuracy.

Elements of a Scholarly Source

Not all sources are created equal. Scholarly sources are considered the gold standard in academic writing and research. But how can you tell if a source is scholarly or not? Here are a few key characteristics to look for:

  • Peer-reviewed: Peer review is a process in which experts evaluate a piece of work, such as an article or book, to determine its quality. For a source to be considered scholarly, it must be reviewed by other scholars in the field to ensure that it meets the standards of the discipline. The peer-review process can take months, if not years, from the time an article is submitted for review and ultimate publication.
  • Written by an expert: Scholarly sources are typically written by scholars or researchers who have conducted extensive research on a topic and have published their findings in academic journals or books. These authors are considered experts in their fields, and their peers typically vet their work before it is published.
  • Contains original research: A scholarly source will often include original research conducted by the author. This research may be surveys, experiments, or case studies. The data collected from this research is then analyzed and used to support the author's argument or thesis. Scholarly sources typically do not contain opinions or commentary but rather present facts and data that can be used to draw conclusions.
  • Cited by other scholars: When authors write a scholarly article or book, they cite other scholars' work to support their argument and include extensive documentation, such as footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies, to previously published research. Suppose a particular source has been cited frequently by other scholars. In that case, it is likely a reputable and reliable source of information.
  • Published in a scholarly journal or book: Publishers of scholarly sources are usually university presses, professional associations, academic institutions, and commercial publishers. These publications oversee a rigorous peer-review process before they agree to publish an article or book, which helps to ensure that only high-quality scholarship is disseminated. Journals and books that are published by reputable academic presses are typically considered to be scholarly sources.
  • Uses formal language: Scholarly sources will use formal or technical language specific to the discipline and avoid using colloquialisms, slang terms, anecdotes, or personal information. 

Why Use Scholarly Sources?

Academic coursework is meant to challenge students and help them develop a deeper understanding of various topics. Scholarly sources provide students with high-quality, verifiable information that has been well researched and analyzed by experts in the field. These sources reflect the current state of knowledge on a particular subject and often provide valuable insights and perspectives not found in other types of sources. By using credible and trustworthy sources, students can demonstrate their ability to think critically, synthesize information, and produce original work that contributes to scholarly conversation. Overall, the accurate and discerning use of scholarly sources is an essential attribute of successful students who want to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in their chosen fields.

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