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ENGL 1020 - Dr. Whelan

Popular & Scholarly Sources

You will need to use reliable sources for your college research. Reliable sources are written by experts or go through some fact-checking process. Most of the sources that you find using Google will not meet these criteria and are therefore not considered reliable.

Reliable sources can be grouped into two categories: popular sources and scholarly sources.

Popular Sources

Popular sources include newspapers, encyclopedias, and magazines. They are written by journalists and provide background information. They are reliable because newspapers and magazines fact-check their stories before they are published. Encyclopedias are reliable because they are written by experts on the topic.

  • Newspapers are mostly factual and provide detailed, on-the-ground  information from the day the article was written
  • Encyclopedias are factual and provide a short overview of a topic
  • Magazines provide an overview of the topic often with the analysis of experts

You can find popular sources in the following SOWELA databases:

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources (also called "peer reviewed") report the scientific evidence and conclusions of scholars and researchers. Most importantly, this research has been reviewed by other scholars in the same field of study before it was published to ensure that it is accurate and reliable.

  • Peer reviewed articles are published in scholarly journals and are typically 15-30 pages
  • Scholarly books are published by a university press

The video below will tell you more about peer reviewed sources and how to find them in the library.

Evaluating Your Sources

Consider 4 aspects about a source to determine if it is reliable:

  1. Author
  2. Motivation or Bias
  3. Evidence
  4. Timeliness

1. Author

  • Is the author listed?
  • Is the author an individual or a group?
  • What makes the author an expert?

2. Motivation or Bias

  • Is this opinion or fact?
  • Is the source supported by an organization or company? What do they stand to gain from this?
  • Websites ending in ".edu" or ".gov" will more likely present a neutral point of view (but not always).
  • Are your own biases making you critical about the source before examining the evidence?

3. Evidence

  • Does the source provide any evidence such as citations or links? Do the links work?
  • Was the information reviewed by experts?
  • Can you confirm the information in another source?

4. Timeliness

  • When was the information published or last updated?
  • Is the information up to date?