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How To Select Scholarly Sources for Research Papers

Scholarly sources, also referred to as academic or peer-reviewed, are materials written by experts in a particular field and have undergone a rigorous review process by other professionals in the same field. These sources are crucial when writing research papers. They lend credibility to your arguments, provide a solid foundation for your research, and demonstrate your understanding of the subject. When struggling to find these sources, consider seeking assistance from an academic essay writing service to ensure you have access to reputable scholarly materials for your research.

Characteristics of Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources, also known as academic or peer-reviewed sources, are distinguished by several unique characteristics:

  • The authors of scholarly sources are typically experts in their respective fields. They could be professors, researchers, or professionals who deeply understand the subject matter they are writing about.
  • Scholarly sources are often published in reputable academic or professional journals. These publications have rigorous submission guidelines and use a peer-review process to ensure the quality and accuracy of the information they post.
  • Unlike other sources that simply report on existing information, scholarly sources often include original research or offer in-depth analysis on a particular topic. It could be in the form of new findings, innovative theories, or comprehensive reviews of existing literature.
  • One of the hallmarks of scholarly sources is the inclusion of citations and references. These validate the information presented in the source and allow readers to trace the evidence back to its source.

Differences Between Scholarly Sources and Other Types of Sources

While many sources are available for research, it’s important to distinguish between scholarly sources and others, such as popular sources (e.g., newspapers, magazines) or trade publications.

  • Scholarly sources are written by subject matter experts and undergo a strict peer-review process before publication. In contrast, journalists or freelance writers with different expertise levels often write popular sources. While these sources can provide valuable insights, they have additional rigor and scrutiny applied to them.
  • Scholarly sources provide in-depth analysis and detailed information on a specific topic. They often present original research, comprehensive literature reviews, or thorough case studies. On the other hand, popular sources and trade publications usually provide a broad overview of a topic and are intended for a general audience.
  • Scholarly sources include detailed references and citations, allowing readers to verify the information and follow the trail of evidence. Popular sources, however, rarely provide this level of documentation.
  • The purpose of scholarly sources is to contribute to the body of knowledge within a particular field, while popular sources aim to inform, entertain, or persuade the general public. Trade publications, meanwhile, are designed to keep professionals updated on trends and developments in their industry.

How to Find Scholarly Sources

Using Academic Databases

Academic databases like JSTOR, PubMed, and Google Scholar are excellent resources for finding scholarly sources. These platforms contain numerous peer-reviewed articles, research papers, and academic journals across various disciplines. They often provide advanced search options that allow you to filter results by publication type, date, author, and more.

Utilizing University Libraries and Their Online Systems

University libraries are another valuable resource for scholarly sources. Many universities offer online access to their library catalog, which often includes a vast collection of electronic books, academic journals, and other scholarly publications. If you’re a student or faculty member, you may also have access to interlibrary loan services, which allow you to borrow materials from other libraries.

Navigating Through Online Scholarly Journals

Online scholarly journals are a direct source of academic articles. Websites like Springer, Elsevier, and Wiley Online Library host thousands of journals across various disciplines. Usually, these websites categorize their content by subject area, making it easier to find relevant publications.

Tips for Using Search Engines Effectively to Find Scholarly Sources

While search engines can yield many results, not all are scholarly. Use specific and narrow terms related to your topic to improve your search effectiveness. Including terms like “journal,” “paper,” or “study” in your search can also help filter out non-scholarly results. Additionally, utilizing the “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” operators can limit results to educational or governmental websites, which often host or link to scholarly materials.

Evaluating Scholarly Sources

Checking the Author’s Credentials

The credibility of a scholarly source dramatically depends on the author’s qualifications and expertise in the field. Check the author’s institutional affiliation, educational background, and other published works. An author with a track record of publications on the same or related topics is usually a positive sign.

Assessing the Source’s Credibility and Relevance

Not all scholarly sources are created equal. Assess the publication’s credibility by looking at its publisher, the rigor of its peer-review process, and its reputation in the field. Also, ensure the source is relevant to your research. Even the most credible source won’t be helpful if it doesn’t directly relate to your topic.

Reviewing the Methodology and Findings of the Study

A reliable scholarly source should clearly outline its research methodology. It includes how data was collected, what tools or techniques were used, and how results were analyzed. The findings should be clearly stated and backed by the data presented.

Analyzing the Citations and References Used in the Source

The citations and references in a scholarly source tell you a lot about its quality. Many citations from other scholars indicate that the work has significantly impacted the field. The references should be from reputable and relevant sources, supporting the paper’s credibility.

Integrating Scholarly Sources into Your Research Paper

The first step in incorporating scholarly sources into your research paper is to understand the content of these sources. It involves reading the source thoroughly and identifying the key points relevant to your research.

Quoting is used when you want to include a piece of text from a source precisely as it is. Quotes should be used sparingly and only when the original wording is essential for your argument or the language is particularly expressive or powerful.

Paraphrasing, including when seeking information from the best research paper writing service, involves putting the ideas from a source into your own words. It is a helpful technique when you want to focus on the ideas presented in the source without using the exact wording. When paraphrasing, it’s essential to ensure you’re not just rearranging or replacing a few words. Instead, read over what you want to translate carefully; cover up the text with your hand, or close it so you can’t see any of it (and so aren’t tempted to use it as a “guide”). Write out the idea in your own words without peeking.

Summarizing involves providing a brief overview of the main points of a source. A summary is usually much shorter than the source and only includes the most relevant ideas to your work.

Citing Scholarly Sources Correctly

Citing your sources correctly is an essential part of academic writing. It gives credit to the authors of your sources and allows your readers to locate and consult your sources if they wish. The citation style you should use depends on the requirements of your assignment. Common styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago. Each style has specific rules for how references should be formatted within the text and in the reference list at the end of your paper.

Avoiding Plagiarism When Using Scholarly Sources

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that involves presenting someone else’s work as your own. To avoid plagiarism, always attribute ideas and quotes to their original authors. It is true even when you’re paraphrasing or summarizing. Keep track of your sources as you go along, noting what information you got from each source. It will make the citation process more accessible and ensure you don’t unintentionally forget to credit an author for their work. Use quotation marks for direct quotes, and make it clear when using someone else’s idea.

Additionally, consider using plagiarism detection software to double-check your work. These tools can help you identify any sections of your paper that have been lifted from other sources without proper attribution.


Selecting scholarly sources is a vital part of the research process. These sources lend credibility to your work, provide valuable insights, and demonstrate your understanding of your research topic. By understanding what characterizes these sources, knowing how to find and evaluate them, and integrating them appropriately into your research paper, you can ensure the quality and integrity of your work. So, continue being diligent and thorough in your source selection for future research endeavors.