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WSH ENG 101 Types of Sources: Is it scholarly?

A guide to support English 101 in alignment with new learning outcomes.

Is it "scholarly?"

  • Based on academic research.
  • Author(s) clearly identified with credentials.
  • Primarily of interest to others in same or similar field.
  • Usually follow format:  abstract, introduction, discussion and references.
  • Usually “peer-reviewed” articles, which means that the articles are evaluated by individuals in the same field with the same level of education. The purpose of peer-review is to maintain an academic standard of quality.
  • Not based on academic research, but relies on secondary sources for information.
  • Author, if identified at all, is usually a journalist, rather than an expert in a particular field of study.
  • Primarily of general interest.
  • Do not follow any particular format.
  • Not peer-reviewed.

Formats of Sources

Different formats of sources have different strengths and weaknesses.

Source Pros Cons
Websites Often Current Anyone can publish on the web
Newspapers Current events Not an in depth analysis
Magazines Show current topics in language for the general public Often don't show where the information came from
Trade Journals Analysis meant for people in the field Can be highly technical
Scholarly Journals Current peer reviewed high quality research Written with an assumption of subject knowledge
Books In depth analysis of the topic Can be dated
Media Variety of information presented in an alternative format Can be hard to determine authority and cite

Identifying Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles...

  • Often feature an abstract (summary) at the beginning of the article
  • Always list the author's name
  • Are detailed and are usually several pages long
  • Are many times peer-reviewed (or refereed)
  • Are aimed at scholars in a particular field (biology, history, philosophy, etc.)
  • Have a list of references at the end of the text
  • May contain a literature review of current research in the field
  • Examples include: Journal of Philosophy, Modern Language Quarterly, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Popular magazines...

  • May not list who wrote the article or any of the sources used

  • Are usually brief and offer only general or superficial coverage of a topic

  • Have lots of ads and are usually printed on glossy paper

  • Are written for a general audience

  • Are often great sources for current, general information on a topic

  • Examples include: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic

Which is easiest?

When your assignment requires recent, peer-reviewed journal articles in MLA format, is Google Scholar or a library database easier to use?


Google Scholar


Ease of Use

Very easy due to familiarity and accessibility.

Not difficult, but more time-consuming to choose database and define search terms.


Finding specific information

Usually very fast when searching for specific information such as title and author.

Finding specific information for an article would usually require knowing the journal title.


Full text results

Very little; articles must be requested through ILL or purchased.

All articles when full-text option is selected.


Date sort

None; sorted by relevancy regardless of date.

Sorts by most recent articles first.


Scholarly content

Some; but difficult to assess.

All scholarly when option is selected; journal information is also included in database.


Limit by material, e.g., journal articles

No limits

Yes, limits by journal articles, dissertations, book reviews and many other options.


Offers citation style guides


Yes, citations are provided for MLA, ALA and many other styles.


Offers search history


Yes, search history and articles can be saved in account folder.

As you can see, you get what you pay for!  The library owns over 80 subscription databases to facilitate academic research, which includes access to recent, full-text, scholarly content that can be limited and/or sorted according to the researcher's needs.