Scholarly Sources


“Popular” vs. “Scholarly” Sources

Research-based writing assignments in college will often require that you use scholarly sources in the essay. Different from the types of articles found in newspapers or general-interest magazines, scholarly sources have a few distinguishing characteristics.

Popular Source Scholarly Source
Intended Audience Broad: readers are not expected to know much about the topic already Narrow: readers are expected to be familiar with the topic beforehand
Author Journalist: may have a broad area of specialization (war correspondent, media critic) Subject Matter Expert: often has a degree in the subject and/or extensive experience on the topic
Research Includes quotes from interviews. No bibliography. Includes summaries, paraphrases, and quotations from previous writing done on the subject. Footnotes and citations. Ends with a bibliography.
Publication Standards Article is reviewed by an editor and proofreader Article has gone through a peer-review process, where experts in the field have given input before publication

Where to Find Scholarly Sources

Bright yellow graphic showing the process for finding sources: Begin with background research, Narrow the search terms, Look for scholarly information, Search libraries and databases.

The first step in finding scholarly resources is to look in the right place. Sites like Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia may be good for popular sources, but if you want something you can cite in a scholarly paper, you will usually need to find it in a scholarly database.

Two common scholarly databases are Academic Search Premier and ProQuest, though many others focus on specific topics. Your school library pays to subscribe to these databases, making them available for you to use as a student.

You have another incredible resource at your fingertips: your college’s librarians! For help locating resources, you will find that librarians are extremely knowledgeable and may help you uncover sources you would never have found on your own—maybe your school has a microfilm collection, an extensive genealogy database, or access to another library’s catalog. You will not know unless you utilize the valuable skills available to you, so be sure to find out how to get in touch with a research librarian for support!



Adapted from Lumen Learning’s “Intermediate Research Strategies” from English Composition II used according to  CC BY 4.0.




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UNM Core Writing OER Collection Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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