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HIST 220: American Environmental History

David Voelker

Why should I use scholarly sources?

Many research assignments will require you to use scholarly sources, but that's not the only reason to use them. Reading and referencing scholarly sources can enhance the quality of your paper.

Incorporating their work into your writing through references and quotations adds weight to your argument and demonstrates that you are familiar with the topic (Murray & Hughes, 2008; Wang & Park, 2016).

Terms to Know

  • Scholarly sources: publications intended for an academic audience
  • Peer-review: a formal process in which works are evaluated by fellow experts in a field prior to publication

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.

What are some characteristics of scholarly sources?

Scholarly sources generally share the following characteristics:

To advance knowledge in a field of study, often in the form of original research or analysis

Journal articles, books, book chapters; usually 5 pages or longer

Experts in the field, such as professors, scientists, etc.

Text-heavy, with advanced language and terminology from the discipline

Includes citations and a bibliography, works cited, or references list



Murray, N., and Hughes, G. (2008). Writing up your university assignment and research projects: A practical handbook. Retrieved from

Wang, G. T., & Park, K. (2016). Student research and report writing: From topic selection to the complete paper. Retrieved from