Skip to Main Content

COMM 308: Information Technologies

Ask a Librarian

Sorry, we are currently offline.

Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources

You are likely very familiar with popular sources, which are intended for a general audience, such as newspapers, magazines, and most websites. In comparison, scholarly sources are intended for an academic audience, such as professors, researchers, and college students, and they can take the form of journal articles, books, and book chapters. Trade publications are written for professionals in a specific field and are more focused than popular sources, but they are not scholarly.

Depending on your research topic and the requirements of your assignment, you may be able to use both scholarly and non-scholarly sources. Since non-scholarly sources are not subject to the same level of review before publication as scholarly sources, be sure to evaluate them before incorporating them in your project.

Comparing Article Sources

The UW-Green Bay Library databases include articles from several types of sources. This table can help you understand the different types of articles by comparing their characteristics.

  Scholarly Journals Trade Publications Magazines Newspapers

Yes No No No

To advance knowledge in a field of study, often in the form of original research or analysis To discusses current trends, news and products in a specific field To inform, entertain, or persuade on a variety of topics To inform, entertain, or persuade regarding news and current events

Lengthy articles with abstracts, methods, results, conclusions, and bibliography Medium-length articles Short and sometimes medium-length articles Short articles

Scholars, professors, or researchers in the field Staff, scholars, professionals in the field, or freelance writers with subject expertise Publication's staff or freelance writers Publication's staff, newswires, freelance writers, or syndicated columnists

Terminology and jargon of the field Appropriate for an educated readership Generally simple language Generally simple language

Scholars, professors, researchers, college students Professionals in a particular industry General public General public

Graphics, charts, and photographs included to convey information Photographs, illustrations, charts, and tables; may be informative or decorative Photographs, illustrations, drawings, charts and advertisements Photographs, illustrations, drawings, and charts, and advertisements

Always include in-text citations with reference lists at the end Occasional short reference lists Rarely lists sources; information often comes from interviews Rarely lists sources; information often comes from interviews

Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Communication, Computers & Education Adweek, Social Work Today, Minority Nurse, Industrial Engineer Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Popular Science New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Green Bay Press-Gazette

Identifying Scholarly Articles

Read about the characteristics common to scholarly articles and check out corresponding examples. Remember that not all scholarly articles are peer-reviewed.

 The purpose of a scholarly article is generally to advance knowledge in a field of study, often in the form of original research or analysis. Look for a statement indicating that the authors conducted original research or analysis.
Example: We analyze the causes of this stark contrast in status and evaluate what ecological factors contribute to the extinction risk for all 106 avian scavenger species.

 Scholarly articles are generally at least 5 pages long.
Example: Biological Conservation 198 (2016) 220-228


 They often include an abstract, which summarizes the contents of the article.
Example: Abstract. Vultures, which are the only obligate vertebrate scavengers, have experienced the most rapid decline in conservation status of any group of birds over the past decade...


 They are usually divided into sections and include headings such as literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion.
Example: Contents. Introduction. Material and Methods. Results. Discussion.

 Authors of scholarly articles are experts in their fields. Their names are usually listed with their credentials (i.e., institutional affiliations and/or degrees)
Evan R. Buechley, University of Utah, Department of Biology; Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, College of Sciences, Koç University

 Scholarly articles are text-heavy and use formal language.
Example: Scavenging, or the consumption of carrion, is a common foraging strategy and a critical component of ecosystem ecology.


 They may include tables, charts, and/or graphs that convey information.
Example: Table 1 Description of traits used in the random forest analysis.

 Scholarly articles include in-text citations.
Example: Over the last few decades, vulture populations have declined at catastrophic rates, especially in Asia and Africa (Buechley and Şekercioğlu, 2016; Ogada et al., 2012a, 2012b, 2015).


 They always include either extensive footnotes and/ or a list of sources at the end of the article, often called works cited, reference list, or bibliography.
Example: References list

Identifying Scholarly Books

Read about the characteristics common to scholarly books and check out corresponding examples:

 The purpose of a scholarly book is to advance knowledge in a field of study, often in the form of original research or analysis. Look for indications that the authors conducted original research or analysis.

Example: The volume before you represents both classic approaches and new ideas in urban bird ecology...
 Scholarly books may be written entirely by an author or group of authors, or they may be edited, meaning that each chapter is written by a different author.


 Many scholarly books have an index at the end of the book.
Example: Book index

 Authors of scholarly books are experts in their fields. Sometimes an institution and credentials are listed next to an author’s name. Look also for a “Contributors” section of an edited book (i.e., a book with individually authored chapters).
Example: Christopher A. Lepczyk, University of Hawai'i at Manoa; Paige S. Warren, University of Massachusetts-Amherst


 Scholarly books are often published by a university press or academic publisher (e.g., Harvard University Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Blackwell). You can find the publisher for a book on its title page or copyright page.
Example: A publication of the Cooper Ornithological Society, University of California Press

 Scholarly books are text-heavy and use formal language.
Example: Our aim in this study was to explore the intensity of nest predation pressure on birds and patterns of nest predation risk...


 They may include tables, charts, and/or graphs that convey information.
Example: Table 6.1, the basic features of the tourist destinations included in this study

 Scholarly books often include citations in the text (e.g., footnotes or endnotes).
Example: According to some studies over the past decade, diversity may peak at intermediate levels of urbanization, a finding attributed by some to Connell's (1978) intermediate disturbance hypothesis (McDonnell and Pickett 1990, Blair 1996, McKinney 2002, Lepczyk et al. 2008).


 They almost always include a list of sources, often called works cited, references list, or bibliography. Look for it at the end of the book or at the end of each chapter.
Example: Literature cited.

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Articles

It's important to remember the distinction between scholarly and peer-reviewed: peer-review is a formal process in which works are evaluated by fellow experts in a field prior to publication. Not all scholarly articles have gone through the peer-review process!

There are a few approaches to determining whether an article was peer-reviewed:

  1. Look for a publication history or revision dates on the first page of the article. The dates indicate when the article went through the peer-review process.
    Article history: Received, received in revised form, accepted, and available online.

  2. Look up the journal in Ulrich's, a library database with information about journals. Journals that are peer-reviewed will have an icon with a referee's jersey. (Peer-reviewed articles are sometimes described as refereed.)
    Ulrich's entry for a journal with a refereed icon
  1. Explore the journal's homepage. You can often find it with an internet search for the journal's name. Look for a description of the journal, or for a section with information for authors.
    This journal operates a single blind review process.

Finally, remember that not every article in a peer-reviewed journal went through the peer-review process. Book reviews, editorials, and other short features are generally not peer-reviewed and not considered scholarly.


The examples shown on this page are from:

Buechley, E. R. & Şekercioğlu, C. H. (2016). The avian scavenger crisis: Looming extinctions, trophic cascades, and loss of critical ecosystem functions. Biological Conservation, 198, 220-228.

Lepczyk, C. A., & Warren, P. S. (Eds.). (2012). Urban bird ecology and conservation. Retrieved from