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Sociology: SOC 111 Social Problems (Pearson)

What is a scholarly source?

Scholarly sources are in-depth accounts of original research. Scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field or discipline, and their primary intended audience is other experts in that particular field and students of that discipline. They are written for the purpose of scholarly communication; to report findings and advance research. The language used often includes specialized terminology. Importantly, authors of scholarly sources are required to provide properly-formatted references or citations for the information in their papers. Scholarly sources go through a peer-review process where other experts in the field look at the content, format, and style of the paper before publication.

Scholarly sources include journals such as Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Data Information and Management, and American Journal of Psychiatry.

Cover of September 2012 Journal of American Medical Association                            Cover of Journal of Data, Information and Management                            Cover of American Journal of Psychiatry September 2014

Popular vs Trade vs Scholarly

How do I read a scholarly journal article?

After you have taken a look at the abstract and determined that the article is a good one for your paper, how do you read a scholarly article? They are often lengthy, but you may not need to read the whole thing. Scholarly articles have a very strict format, with defined sections and expectations for what goes in those sections. The video tutorial and other resources below will show you how to take advantage of that format to skim scholarly articles for useful information efficiently.

The links below provide further guidance in text and interactive format.

How can I tell if a book is scholarly or popular?

Here are some criteria you can use to determine whether a book is scholarly:


First, take a look at the publisher:

  • Is the publisher a University Press? If yes, the book is most likely scholarly.


Other criteria to check:


  • Scholarly books usually (though not always) are made up of several chapters written by different authors. The book will often have an editor (or multiple) who puts all of the separate chapters together in a logical order. Editors may also write a chapter or foreword to introduce the book.
  • The author, or authors, should have credentials in the field that they are writing in. Just like with scholarly articles, look for affiliation with a university, hospital, or other research group. Look for advanced degrees or significant experience.


  • Just like with scholarly articles, look at the actual content of the book and how it is presented. Do they write using subject-specific terminology, for a specific audience?
  • Is original research being presented?
  • Are sources cited? Is there a list of references at the end of the book, or even at the end of each chapter?
  • How was the content reviewed? Was there a peer-review process?


If the book meets all or most of the criteria above, you are most likely looking at a scholarly book. If you're not sure, ask a librarian!

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