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HIS244H1S Early Modern Europe, 1648–1815

Are My Sources Scholarly?

The process of determining whether a book or an article is scholarly can be challenging. It is important to ensure that the sources you are incorporating into your essay are scholarly (as opposed to popular, non-scholarly sources, such as Wikipedia). There are several benefits associated with using authoritative, academic sources:

  • it demonstrates to your instructor that you are familiar with the literature on your topic
  • effectively incorporating current and relevant (in other words, the best) sources into your paper strengthens the quality of your own arguments
  • it shows that you have done the required research (and thus preparation) before jumping into writing.

As you are examining a specific book or an article, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Who wrote and/or published this source?
  • What credentials qualify him or her to write on this topic?
  • Is the author associated with an institution of higher learning?
  • What else has this author written?
  • What sources does he or she cite in her bibliography?

There are several criteria that you can apply to help you determine whether a source is scholarly or non-scholarly.

Scholarly Popular
Purpose/Content Disseminate new research and theory. Extensive detail of theory, methods and research tools. Inform and entertain the public. News, opinion pieces, general interest stories.
Audience Academics, postsecondary students. Assumes subject expertise. General public. Subject expertise not generally expected.
Authors Scholars (PhDs, faculty, curators, etc.). Reporters, journalists.
Accountability Peer-reviewed. Editor, fact checkers, journalistic ethics.
Appearance Plain, articles with abstracts & bibliographies, only graphics necessary to elucidate a point, little advertising. Eye-catching, many pictures, often substantial advertising.
Publisher Scholarly society, university, or specialist commercial firm. Commercial.
Access University libraries. Generally indexed in a database specific to its field (e.g. JSTOR). Newsstands, individual subscribers, public libraries. Reputable publications indexed by general purpose indexes (e.g. Expanded Academic)