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Types of Sources: Identifying Scholarly Sources

A guide that provides information on types of sources and how to find them.

Secondary Sources

Most books, articles and other information sources are considered to be secondary sources. However, it depends on the purpose of your research! If you are writing about racism and sexism in America,  Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is considered a primary source because it is a first-hand account of her experiences with these issues.

If you are writing a research paper about the Civil Rights movement, it would be a secondary source because that is not a central theme in this book, although it is peripherally related. Learn more on the Selecting Sources page in this guide.

chart of academic/research disciplinesImage from Marcia J. Bates, Professor Emerita, Information Studies, UCLA

Generally, a scholarly source is written by an expert in the given field and goes through the peer-reviewed process. Researchers use scholarly sources because they provide credible information. Most college-level papers you need to write will require you to reference scholarly sources.

While articles from academic journals are perhaps the most important scholarly sources, scholarly sources exist in many forms. Scholarly sources may also be books, conference proceedings, or other sources that match the scholarly criteria.

Characteristics of a scholarly source:

  • Authors are scholars or researchers in the field
  • Publication cites other sources
  • Publication is written in language that is either academic or specific to the field
  • Published by a scholarly press and reviewed
  • Publication is intended for academics or researchers in the field

In the peer-review process, a source is reviewed and scrutinized by colleagues in the author's field. Check to see if an article is peer-reviewed by searching the MLA Directory or Ulrich's Web.

Electronic Sources

As a member of Taft College you have access to millions of information sources. The Library Catalog and the databases listed in A-Z Databases allow you to search for information pertinent to your research. However, not all sources provided by these services are academic articles. 

Physical Sources

You may also find scholarly sources on the shelves of Taft College Library.