Scholarly Sources Checklist
1. Content of the source:
- Are sources cited or references provided in the source? This means parenthetical in-text citations or footnotes are provided, indicating where information and ideas were taken from, and an extensive reference list is provided at the end of the source. If sources are not cited, stop! A source without references is not a scholarly source.
- Is the source an in-depth treatment of its subject (usually several pages long with a lot of detailed information and in-depth analysis)?
- Does the source have a thesis or argument or claim it’s trying to prove, or (if it's a report of scientific research) a conclusion drawn from the research?
- Does the source incorporate original research? Most scholarly sources are a combination of original research and analysis of earlier research, though in some cases they just review or summarize or analyse earlier research.
2. Information about the publisher of the source:
- Is the source published by a college or university, or by a scholarly professional organization (For example, Journal of the American Medical Association, or American Quarterly, published by the American Studies Association, an interdisciplinary association of scholars who study American culture)?
- If your source is an article, is the journal it was published in peer-reviewed or refereed by other experts in the field?
- Is the title of the source descriptive and specific? Scholarly sources usually have more informative titles than non-scholarly sources. An example of a very specific title might be "Understanding the social context of violent and aggressive incidents on an inpatient unit," whereas an example of a general title might be "The Medicated Child."
- Is the title of the source specialized? Titles of scholarly sources are usually addressed to specialized audiences. An example of a specialized title might be "Genetically Modified Crops and Risk Assessment in the UK," whereas a nonspecialized title might be "Multinational Companies Unite to Fight Bribery."
3. The authors of the source:
- Is the author a scholar/expert/specialist in the field? Does the author have an advanced degree? Scholarly sources are usually written by people with advanced degrees in their field. Degrees are often listed after the author's name (Ph.D., M.D., M.A., etc.). Journals often provide descriptions of the author's credentials at the start of the source or in a separate "Notes on Contributors" section. If your source is an article, is the journal it was published in peer-reviewed or refereed by other experts in the field?
- Is the author affiliated with a college or university? Scholarly sources are usually written by professors at colleges or universities. Authors' affiliations are often listed at the beginning of the source, right after the author's name.
- Have the authors declared any conflict of interest or bias? For example, a conflict of interest would be a person who wrote a source on the benefits of smoking, but works for a tobacco company.