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Visual & Performing Arts Resources @ UTSC

Why Use Scholarly Sources?

There are many different types of information sources. Each is characterized by different elements and target audiences.

Non-scholarly sources inform and entertain the public or allow practitioners to share industry, practice, and production information 
Examples: Newspapers, magazines, trade journals, popular books.

Scholarly sources disseminate research and academic discussion among professionals within disciplines; they are intended for university-level study and research, and are preferred when writing university-level essays.
Examples: Journals and books; see the chart below.

Generally, non-scholarly sources do not examine a topic with the level of detail and sophistication that your professor expects. They are not authoritative (the authors are often not academics). They are written to entertain and broadly inform, rather than to advance a field of study. They may be acceptable for high school level essays, but they are not acceptable for university level essays.

Note: If an article is peer-reviewed/refereed, it is scholarly. However, this term only applies to journal articles. Books can be scholarly as well.

Adapted from the CQ University Library.

Comparing Sources

  Scholarly/Academic Source Non-scholarly/Popular Source
  • To share with other scholars the results of primary research & experiments.
  • To entertain or inform in a broad, general sense.
  • A respected scholar or researcher in the field; an expert in the topic; names are always noted.
  • A journalist or feature writer; names are not always noted.
  • A university press; a professional association or known (independent) scholarly publisher.
  • A commercial publisher; self-published.
  • Scholars or researchers in the field or those interested in the topic at a research level; university students.
  • General public.
  • Formal presentation of scholarly work in a standard style; often an abstract at the beginning of the article. Articles may have section headings, such as literature review, methodology, results, discussion/further study.
  • Often presented in story format, with anecdotes from other people.
  • Language is formal and technical; usually contains discipline-specific jargon.
  • Language is casual (high school reading level or lower). Few, if any, technical terms are used (and if they are, they are usually defined.)
  • Standard element; reference are always cited and expected; can also be called "works cited," or "bibliographies;" text often contains footnotes.
  • Very uncommon; text may contain vague referrals to "a study published at..." or "researchers found that..." with no other details about that information.



Adapted from the Valparaiso University Library.