What counts as a scholarly source?

Scholarly sources are written by academics and other experts and contribute to knowledge in a particular field by sharing new research findings, theories, analyses, insights, news, or summaries of current knowledge.

Scholarly sources can be either primary or secondary research. They can also come in many different formats. Books, articles, and websites can all be scholarly. Remember, there is sometimes a difference between scholarly and peer-reviewed articles; all peer-reviewed sources are scholarly, but not all scholarly sources are  peer-reviewed. 

  1. Accuracy
    • The information should be based on verifiable facts.
    • There should be a bibliography or list of references.
    • There should be no spelling or grammatical errors.
  2. Authority
    • A specific author or team of authors should be listed. 
    • These authors should work at an institution (such as a university or research institute) with a good reputation.
    • The authors' qualifications (PhD, research chair, etc) should be stated.
  3. Bias
    • The information should be based on fact, not opinion.
    • There should be no obvious bias.
    • The authors should appeal to the reader's sense of logic, not emotion.
  4. Audience
    • The source should be written for other experts or people who are familiar with the topic.
    • The language should be fairly technical, not simplistic.
  5. Currency
    • In some disciplines, it is very important to use recent sources (within three or five years), but in others it's OK to have older sources.  Ask your TA or instructor if you're not sure what's too old.
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