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SOC 229: Diversity of American Families

What is a Scholarly Source?

Scholarly (also referred to as academic) sources are written by experts in a particular field and serve to keep researchers in that field up to date on the most recent research and findings. Examine your sources to determine if they're scholarly or not:

  • anatomy of a scholarly articleLanguage:  Is the source written in a scholarly or technical language used in the discipline? 
  • Audience:  Who is the intended audience? Scholarly sources are written for faculty, researchers, and other scholars. 
  • Authorship:  Who is the author of the article?  Is he or she an expert on this topic, as opposed to a reporter who writes on a wide variety of topics? Has this author written other works on this topic? Does the author have an academic affiliation?
  • Peer-Review:  Was your source peer-reviewed or refereed by experts in the field before being accepted for publication?
  • References:  Does the article contain references to other works? Serious researchers and scholars always cite their sources.
  • Purpose:  What is the purpose/intent? Scholarly sources are written to present original research or new findings to the world. Usually the purpose is revealed in the abstract or summary of the source. In the abstract, look for variations of the words study, case study, measure, subjects, data, survey, or statistics. 

Additional Tips for Articles

  • Journal Title:  Popular magazines like Newsweek or Time don’t publish research articles; publications like American Sociological Review and American Journal of Sociology do. However, don't assume all sources with journal in the title are scholarly. For example, Ladies Home Journal is a popular magazine, not a scholarly journal. 
  • Article Length:  A scholarly article is usually substantial, not 1 or 2 pages. 
  • Article Format:  Scholarly articles generally following a structure including abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and references

Additional Tips for Books

  • Currency:  Is the information current enough for your purposes? Is a historical perspective important?
  • Publisher:  Books published by university press or professional associations are likely to be scholarly.
  • Book reviews:  Find book reviews by searching a sociology database like SocIndex or a multidisciplinary library database

* Content from this section partially adapted from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and CSU San Marcos


Evaluate Sources

The SCAAN test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find.

Source type: Does this source answer your research question? Is it an appropriate type (scholarly or popular, for instance) for your question? Does this contain the information you need to support your argument?
Currency: Is this source up-to-date? 
Accuracy: Is this source accurate? Does its logic make sense to me? Are there any internal contradictions? Does it link or refer to its sources? Does more current data affect the accuracy of the content?
Authority: Who created or authored this source? Could the author or creator bring any biases to the information presented? Is the author or creator a reputable or well-respected agent in the subject area?
Neutrality: Is this source intended to educate, inform, or sell? What is the purpose of this source?

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