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What are Scholarly Sources?

The term scholarly sources is a blanket term that is often used interchangeably with academic sources and peer-reviewed sources - and they typically have the following qualities:

  • Written by experts - scholarly sources are created by people that have advanced far in their field of study.
  • Written for experts - scholarly sources are created to inform other experts in a field about advances or new ideas.
  • Technical language - authors of scholarly sources assume the readership is conversant with the content discussed, and are typically taking great care to ensure that the arguments and claims within their works are narrow and specific; thus the language of scholarly sources will be dense.
  • Citations to other sources - authors of scholarly work do a lot of research for their publications. They build upon the research of others, and cite that research throughout their own work.
  • Review process - before publication, scholarly sources are thoroughly reviewed by a group of experts to make sure that the content of the source is sound and valid.

Typically, academic journals contain scholarly sources called academic articles. Academic articles are going to be your go to resource for scholarly material.

Library Databases for Scholarly Articles

Why Scholarly?

Why bother or care about scholarly sources?

  • Scholarly sources are the best because they make claims, and then support those claims with evidence.
  • You get information directly from researchers, rather than watered down through various filters of commentary and interpretation. It's the pure stuff. The good stuff.
  • Because scholars are experts, using their findings to support your arguments makes your paper stronger while making your points more persuasive.

Sure - you could write a paper just using background information while not really saying anything new. It would, in essence, be a book report that reiterates what is already known about a subject. Those kinds of papers are boring - they are boring to write, and they are boring to read.

Scholary Sources VS Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources

Picture of the cover of the American Journal of Psychology, which is blue with some yellow lines.

Popular Sources

Picture of the cover of Psychology Today which is a sheep in glasses.

  • Author: Written by experts (scientists, professors, scholars) in a particular field.
  • Audience: Written for other experts in a particular field.
  • Language: Very technical and scholarly. Not easily understood.
  • Citations: Provide complete and formal citations for sources.
  • Review Process: Often reviewed by a panel of scholars in the field being studied. (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Author: Written by professional writers, journalists, or members of the general public.
  • Audience: Written for the general public.
  • Language: Basic and clear. Easily understood.
  • Citations: Provide informal or no citations for sources.
  • Review Process: Reviewed by an editor or self-published with no formal review process.

REMEMBER: Popular DOES NOT equal bad. Check with your professors to find out which popular sources they accept.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar is a discovery tool that helps you find scholarly literature related to your topic.


  • Easy to search
  • Shows you the impact of an article (how many times it has been cited by other published articles). 


  • Not full text (with some exceptions). Unless the article/book is free to the public, you will be asked to pay to view the full text. NEVER PAY FOR AN ARTICLE/BOOK! Ask a librarian for help in locating a full-text copy for you.
  • Has a limited search scope. You can miss out on other available articles on a topic if you only use Google Scholar.

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