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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Guide to the OED: Evaluating Sources

What Is a Scholarly Source?

Scholarly sources are works that contain well-sourced, original research and meet the established standards of their discipline. Generally, these sources:

  • do not duplicate work that has already been done by other scholars
  • present a worthwhile approach to the topic
  • exist as part of a standing conversation on the topic, as represented by its citations to other scholarship
  • meet the above and other standards of the discipline, as generally agreed upon by scholars of the discipline

Scholarly sources can appear in a variety of formats, but most often you will find them as books, book chapters, and journal articles. 

There are several basic characteristics that can help you determine if a resource you've found is a scholarly source, and this guide lists several criteria that can help you start identifying scholarly sources.

Also consult the Finding Journal Articles section of this guide to find peer-reviewed journal articles. But above all, please talk to a librarian and your professor if you have questions about citing a source as a scholarly source.

Peer Review

"Peer review" is a key term to know when looking for scholarly sources: If a journal is "Peer reviewed," that means the articles published in that journal were reviewed by an anonymous panel of other scholars, and the panel objectively verified the high level of scholarship in the article.

Peer-reviewed journals are an excellent source for scholarly research articles. If you'd like to learn more, please see our Peer Review guide, which explains why peer review is important and where you can find peer-reviewed articles.

Subject Guide

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