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Scholarly Sources: Is my article scholarly?

Find out what scholarly and popular sources are, how to identify them, and why it matters.

What to look for

Your article might be scholarly if...

  • It tells you who the author is, where they work, the degree(s) they have, or other relevant credentials
  • It has headings that follow IMRAD or AIMRAD: Abstract, Introduction, Methods/Methodology, Results, and Discussion
  • It uses technical terms or jargon that experts in a field might use
  • It discusses other research or scholarly sources, and cites them in-text and in a reference list that you can use to verify the information
  • It was published in a peer-reviewed journal

Digging Deeper

Various elements of scholarly sources (author, audience, purpose, review, content, and appearance) provide clues to identify them.  Ask yourself the following questions to help in your assessment.

Author: Does the author have an advanced degree or other credentials that would make them an expert on the topic being discussed (scholarly source)? Or is the author anonymous, a journalist, or someone with unknown credentials (popular source)?
Audience: Who was the source written for? Is it for a broad audience (popular source)?  Or was it written for other experts, researchers, or students (scholarly source)?
Purpose: Why was the source written? Is it for entertainment or news related (popular source), or does it report on original research or add to the body of knowledge on a topic (scholarly source)?
Content: Is the source written at a level so the general public could understand the content (popular source)?  Or does it contain more technical language that experts in a field use (scholarly source)?
Appearance: Are there colorful images or art present (popular source)?  Or is it mostly mostly text with charts, tables, and technical images (scholarly source)? Does the source have introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections (scholarly source)?

Still not sure?

Try contacting a librarian for help.


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