University Library

Introduction to Scholarly Sources

What is special about scholarly sources? Most scholarly articles and books undergo a peer review or referee process before they are published in academic journals, university presses or professional societies. This rigorous process ensures that what is published is authoritative and of high quality.

Why use scholarly sources? Using scholarly sources will add weight and credibility to your research papers. Many professors expect students to use scholarly sources when writing a college-level research paper.

What are scholarly sources? Scholarly (also referred to as academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed) sources are written by researchers and professors to communicate original research findings or expert analysis to other scholars within their fields. New findings often spur scholars to undertake additional research to build on these new findings, expanding the body of knowledge more quickly than if findings were not shared with others.

Scholarly  Not Scholarly 
  • articles from scholarly journals
  • many books in university libraries
  • dissertations/theses
  • conference proceedings
  • popular magazines
  • newspaper articles
  • most web sites
  • blog postings
  • trade/professional publications
  • market research reports
  • company press releases
  • supermarket tabloids

Always check with your professor if you are unsure whether a particular source is acceptable or not. He or she has the final word!

Peer review process - Before being accepted for publication, a panel of scholarly peers or referees - recognized researchers in the field - reviews and comments upon the prospective article (often requiring the author make multiple revisions) before it is accepted for publication.

This means that the journal's editors send out a prospective author's manuscript  to one or more expert peers from their same field who offer feedback which must be addressed before the article is accepted for publication. Scholarly book publishers, such as university presses and professional associations, follow the practice as well.

Step-by-step explanation from North Carolina State University Libraries:

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