What are scholarly sources?

Scholarly sources are:

  • written by professors, researchers, or subject experts;
  • intended for academic audiences;
  • characterized by serious tone, sophisticated language, and careful documentation of sources.

Examples of scholarly sources include:

  • articles published in scholarly journals,
  • books published by university and academic presses,
  • reports prepared by researchers for government or other agencies.

Scholarly sources are often contrasted with popular sources, those intended for a general audience. Popular sources like newspaper and magazine articles tend to be short, easy to read, and enhanced with eye-catching images and colors.

Scholarly sources are complex and mostly made up of text. They may include charts and graphs or reproductions of images that are interpreted in the text. Most, but not all, scholarly sources are peer reviewed.

Characteristics of Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Publications
  Scholarly Popular Trade
Example American Journal of Psychology cover Psychology Today cover Monitor on Psychology cover
Audience Academic researchers General audience Professionals in the business
Authors Unpaid experts and specialists Paid staff and freelance journalists and writers Paid staff writers and industry experts
Editors Unpaid editors and peer reviewers Paid editors Paid editors
Citations Almost always, many Rarely, few Sometimes, few