Academic Sources | A Comprehensive Guidebook Scholarly Sources

By now, you probably already know that context matters tremendously, especially when writing and citing academic sources. It’s true not all sources that you find academic content are always suitable for certain uses. This, however, depends on the situation that you’re also using the content found.

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Imagine your teacher tells you to write a paper on an academic topic you know absolutely nothing about. The problem arises where you should start, especially with regard to research. Of course, you must first do in-depth research on the topic. Capture all the critical points that will boost your score from books and websites that you trust will give you accurate information.

So, what kind of sources should you trust and use in your academic essays? Well, you can always start with academic sources, also known as scholarly sources.

Below is a detailed overview of academic sources and where to find them:

How to Identify Academic Sources for Research

Unfortunately, not all sources declare whether they qualify as academic sources or peer-reviewed. There are, however, a few clues that you can always look for to determine whether a source is scholarly or not.

First, look at the author’s credentials. All academic writers must be experts in the fields they are writing about. An academic writer must also have an advanced degree or affiliation with some scholarly organization such as a university of a science foundation. If, therefore, you find any of these missing, then it’s likely you’re not looking at an academic source.

Second, the list of references or bibliography must also be available and accurately cited. Remember, most high-quality research and authors base their work on other people’s research. Consequently, a good source should have a list of works that the author must have studied while writing. In most instances, you will find this in the back of a book to be sure.

Finally, you can always tell a lot about a source simply by looking at its publisher. Academic sources must be published by professional associations such as the American Medical Association, by a recognized academic publisher, or by a university like the Oxford University Press.

The best alternative you can always take as well is to as your professor if you aren’t too sure about a source or its publisher. Some publishers are renowned for their works and very popular throughout the academic field.

If, therefore, the publisher of your source is a professional organization or university press, you’ve got an academic source. If not, then you should probably look elsewhere not to risk using non-authentic content.

Is It a Scholarly Source?

By this stage, you should have a rough idea of what academic sources for essays should entail. Usually, when given an assignment, students tend to rush more to Wikipedia as their most trusted source. Be careful, however, when doing this. You must, first, ask yourself, ‘Is Wikipedia a scholarly source?’

Let’s revert back to our criteria. They must be;

  • Peer-reviewed
  • Written by professional, experienced authors
  • Have a list of credible references
  • Published by a reputable publishing media

A list of academic sources that qualify in these criteria usually include books, published expert reports, and academic journal articles. All academic sources must be peer-reviewed. To mean, they were written by an expert and later reviewed and judged by other experts equally qualified and experienced in the sale field for quality and accuracy.

All peer-reviewed sources, therefore, qualify as good choices for academic sources for high-quality and accurate information on your topic.

What Disqualifies Wikipedia as a Scholarly Source?

Unfortunately, Wikipedia doesn’t have a publisher. It, therefore, doesn’t pass that test, which disqualifies it as a scholarly source. Also, since there’s no identified author of the sources, you cannot be sure whether the sources came from an expert or not. On some occasions, Wikipedia may include a list of references in some of its pages. But still, you cannot count on them to be credible.

That means you must look at other sources. Conduct literature research that you feel will provide you with the credibility and authenticity you need in your writing. Look for content that you can rely on from books to academic journals and even online sources.

Remember, however, that not all sources come equally. Some, if not most, Wikipedia sources are usually incorrect or mistaken and don’t always have an editor to correct their issues. Whereas, others may be under-researched or rely more on guessing to fill in the gaps.

In the worst cases, the writer may provide you with incorrect information as a joke. You, therefore, never really know who’s writing the truth and who’s not.

Are BBC and CNN Good Academic Sources?

Well, it depends, really. For events, yes. CNN and BBC probably qualify as some of the best sources. However, for anything specific or research-worthy, no. That’s not to discredit them. It’s simply that the two don’t qualify as academic sources for research.

Often, you find CNN and BBC caught on the wrong end, messing up reports on scientific studies. Atop all that, most of their scientific studies are always very poorly done. In some cases, their conclusions even contradict what their data shows. If anything, CNN and BBC should qualify as non-academic sources.

Determining Source Reliability

Depending on your course and type of paper your instructor wants you to write, you should focus on using scholarly sources to be on the safer side. Academic assignments generally require you to focus more on books, peer-reviewed journal articles, and reputable websites.

Yes, you may have to read other official materials like government papers, law cases, policy documents, conference papers, etc. In very rare instances, some non-academic sources such as blogs, social media feeds, newspapers, etc. can be used in academic work. You must, however, be careful and ensure you use them appropriately. Such sources may help in gauging or demonstrating public opinion and other political issues.

Academic sources also don’t necessarily need to be in written text form. In some instances, you may need to refer to artworks, images, maps, films, tv broadcasts, podcasts, live performances, music, etc. What’s important is that you use these sources critically and appropriately. You must be able to show that you understand when and why to use them.

So, is a speech an academic source? It depends, really, on several factors like what the speech is about and the audience listening to it.

Need Help with Academic Sources?

Say your professor gives you an assignment for the summer holidays. If this is your first time handling takeaway assignments, then you’re likely to get your sources mixed up. Luckily, there are several online homework help services that will have your assignments done in record time.

myhomeworkwriters.com ranks as one of the best online platforms for writing academic assignments. What’s more, the website has a host of experienced, professional writers who can’t wait to get started on your paper. Visit My Homework Writers today and have your paper written by knowledgeable writers who use academic sources only for your projects.

Detailed Overview of Scholarly Sources


While books remain one of the best sources for information, they may not always be reliable.

Here’s why:

  • Books can sometimes have outdated materials – the long turn around between submissions and publications can sometimes mean that even relatively recent books may contain superseded information.
  • Rarely peer-reviewed – often, they are edited. But the editors don’t always subject them to specialists for review.
  • Created to make money – authors may sometimes over-inflate the importance of certain claims in their books to sell more copies for profit.

However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t use books. Only that you be aware of such limitations when using books as sources for your academic essays.

You can also check the credibility of the book’s author by verifying its biography details. You can do this by checking other publications by the author. Check what the publisher stands to gain from the research presented in the book.

Journal Articles

Academic journal articles rank as perhaps the best and most reliable sources of current thinking in different fields. To be the most reliable for academic sources, use only peer-reviewed journal articles. Having other expert academics read these journal articles before publication helps to ensure that all claims in the journals are backed by their evidence.

However, this doesn’t mean you cannot critique an article. Simply because it’s peer-reviewed doesn’t make it error-free. Remember, the peer-review process doesn’t always make everything in the journal true. This only makes the journal worthy of publication and that it has credible claims based on evidence. You could as well find a peer-reviewed journal that provides an opposite view that you can use to back your critique.


You can now find several websites created by highly reputable agencies that make them very credible academic sources. Or, you can always stumble upon a website created by a teenager somewhere in their bedroom. You must, therefore, know how to discern which sites to use and the credibility that you give to them.

Mostly, websites rank as a credible source for official documents like company reports, NHS policies, government papers, etc. You can always use these as reliable, authoritative sources of information without worrying about credibility. On the other hand, it’s always best to do a little research on a website to determine its credibility and reliability.

Surveying the content of the website you intend to use as a source can also help you determine its credibility and authenticity. Remember, you must know the intent of the information provided by the content publisher before using the content provided.

Browsing the website for other links and citations present may also help you get a better feel of what the website entails. Read all the contents of the website carefully before deciding to use its contents as a source. This should help you determine that the facts and data in the site add value to your topic. You don’t want to end up using prejudiced, manipulated, or distorted content as your source. Not unless you plan on failing your finals.

Newspapers and News Reports

Newspapers always seem to have different political and social agendas, which can greatly affect their content. Think of the reporters/editors’ and intended audience purposes in the written articles. What newspapers claim to be ‘facts’ can sometimes turn out to be extremely selective chosen. As an academic student, you must take this into account as well

Some newspaper sources also tend to come out more reliable than others. Still, even the most reliable sources may involve a great deal of bias. Granted, broadsheet newspapers are usually more reliable than tabloids. But even they can spin information in an attempt to meet their agendas.

Generally, newspapers make for the best sources for evidencing public opinion and may even offer unique insight into certain time periods. Provided you don’t use them as your only source of academic information, newspapers can be quite reliable sources.

Broadcast news, on the other hand, can vary incredibly. If, however, you want to use something you heard or saw on the news, it might be best to balance it by comparing reposts from other sources on the same subject.

The fact that newspapers and magazines cater to a broad audience shouldn’t lull you into thinking that they are credible sources. Most of them don’t always follow any specific format. You’ll also rarely find them referenced or cited.

Although most popular sources aren’t without merit and sometimes contain well-considered writing, your main objective always is to distinguish between sources that command a degree of authority and depth of research from the rest. Such highly-researched newspapers and news reports can add intrinsic academic value if used appropriately.

Academic Vs. Non-Academic Sources

Academic researchers and writers must generally have the necessary skills to identify the differences between academic and non-academic sources accurately. As aforementioned, the main requirement of determining whether a publication is academic or non-academic is if it’s been peer-reviewed.

This module should help you break down sources into different categories that include: print, online, and multimedia. The categorization of academic sources depends greatly on the medium of delivery.

As an academic writer, you should know that sources in almost any medium can be academic or non-academic. And while the verification process may eat into your time and effort, being sure of a source’s authenticity will help earn you more points in your finals.

Academic Sources

Most publications offering academic sources tend to appear kind of bland. They hardly always have color photos or flashy graphics. Other than graphs, charts, and other illustrations that appear mainly in scientific publications, these publications can bore you to sleep. And that’s predominantly because these publications aren’t created in order to make a profit.

Yes, they may sometimes include a little advertising to help offset publication costs. But most academic publications receive subsidies from academic organizations and institutions to support their publications.

Non-Academic Sources

In contrast, non-academic sources are usually written by writers and journalists who aren’t necessarily experts on the subjects they write about. Writers of popular sources also tend to reach a general, broad audience mainly because they keep a style of writing in their content that readers find approachable.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise when a writer decides to spice things a little to make his or her content more appealing to the readers.

How Best to Know If Your Source Is Scholarly

The characteristics mentioned below should help you determine whether a source is scholarly or non-scholarly. Ensure you look at each category and its criteria when making your determination. Don’t base your decisions on only a single piece of information.


  • Ensure you check the author’s name in the publication
  • The author’s credentials in the publication
  • Check whether the credentials provided are relevant to the information provided by the author


  • You want to know the publisher of the information
  • Determine whether the publisher is an academic institution, a professional organization or a scholarly
  • Determine the publisher’s reason for publishing the information provided


  • You must also know the intended audience of the published information
  • Check whether the language of the publication is geared towards the intended discipline or the general public


  • Know the reason for publishing the information
  • Ensure you also check the length of the source
  • Check whether the research claims are documented


  • Check the date of the publication and its credibility

You can tell a lot about a source by using the criteria mentioned above. You can also tell from the above data that scholarly sources don’t necessarily need to be from a professional association. Even non-scholarly sources can make for excellent sources.


Describing correct, error-free content is a critical part of any academic writing. You must, therefore, know which sources are best to be used as academic sources. Finding valid sources for scholarly material isn’t as simple as most people put it. You must have a keen eye and idea of what to look for to determine the credibility and authenticity of a source.

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