What is a scholarly source?

Scholarly sources (also called academic, peer-reviewed or refereed sources) are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars. When we speak about scholarly sources here we mostly speak about scholarly, peer-reviewed journals, but scholarly sources can be anything from books to conference publications, either electronic or print-based. These sources will provide the most substantial information for your research.

Scholarly articles generally contain the following elements:

  • The authors are scholars or researchers with known affiliations and credentials.
  • The language used is academic and complex, and often the language of the discipline is used.
  • The article contains full citations to other scholarly sources
  • Scholarly articles are often peer reviewed by specialists before being accepted for publication.
  • The publisher is a scholarly press with editorial reviews to ensure quality of the content.
  • The intended audience are other faculty, researchers or scholars.

Pro tip: If you use bibliographic databases such as PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, DOAJ, ERIC, ScienceDirect or JSTOR you can be sure that the articles are scholarly sources right from the beginning. Some of these are subscription based and you will only have access if your are on campus network. But there is also a bunch of academic search engines that let you find papers for free.

Logos of academic databases
Academic databases provide a great resource to find scholarly articles.
  • They are written for a general audience and broad readership
  • They are opinion based
  • The language used is non-technical
  • They are not reviewed by other specialists before publication
  • They lack references to other sources
  • Examples: primary sources, news sources, data and statistical publications, book reviews or editorials