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Evaluating Sources: Scholarly Sources

Evaluating information resources for students at the UW Bothell & Cascadia College.

What is Scholarly Communication?

"For an activity to be designated as scholarship, it should manifest at least three key characteristics: it should be public, susceptible to critical review and evaluation, and accessible for exchange and use by other members of one's scholarly community. We thus observe with respect to all forms of scholarship that they are acts of mind or spirit that have been made public in some manner, have been subjected to peer review by members of one's intellectual or professional community, and can be cited, refuted, built-upon, and shared among members of that community. Scholarship properly communicated and critiqued serves as the building block for knowledge growth in a field."

Source: Shulman, Lee. The Carnegie Teaching Academy. (1998). The Pew Scholars National Fellowship Program (pp 9-10). Menlo Park, CA: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Characteristics of Scholarly Sources

  • Scholarly journals and books usually cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies.
  • Articles are written by a scholar or expert in the field.
  • The language of scholarly sources is typically that of the discipline covered.
  • Scholarly sources usually assume that the reader has some prior knowledge of the topic or problem.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization.
  • Many scholarly journals are "peer reviewed" or "refereed". To be accepted for publication in a given journal the author of an article must submit his or her article to be reviewed, usually anonymously, by a panel of experts in the field.

Many books are also considered scholarly, though they typically do not go through the same peer review process as journals. These are published by university or academic "trade" publishers.

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

American Economic Review

Communication Education 

Journal of Marriage and the Family (published by the National Council on Family Relations)

Modern Fiction Studies



*Information on this page is adapted from: Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals – A Checklist of Criteria. Cornell University Library.

Is this journal peer reviewed/refereed?