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Basic Research in Sociology and other Social Sciences

Basic research skills and resources in sociology and other disciplines of the social sciences including evaluating sources, journal articles, statistical information and websites.

Distinguish between Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources?

Scholarly Sources

  • Engage with and build upon credible, authoritative sources
  • Participate in a larger, ongoing conversation on the topic, and this conversation is evident in the scholarly essay
  • Always properly cite their sources—always a Works Cited, References, or Bibliography and some form of in-text citations
  • Often present information as negotiable—even when a scholar is arguing for one way of looking at things, s/he will at least acknowledge that there are other ways of looking at the topic or issue
  • Almost always peer reviewed by other scholars


  • Scholarly Articles in the databases (will say if they are peer reviewed or not!)
  • Scholarly Articles in Scholarly Journals (in databases, but sometimes can find online)
  • Scholarly books
  • Anthologies—collections of essays on a specific topic that are peer reviewed

Non Scholarly Sources:

  • May claim to be citing credible sources, but they may not actually be
  • May not acknowledge the ongoing conversation surrounding the issue
  • May present knowledge as the ultimate truth, the one right perspective on a topic
  • Probably won’t cite texts—don’t usually use in-text citations or works cited pages (thus, references may be hard to find!)

Non Scholarly Text Examples:

  • Magazine articles
  • News: on TV, in the newspaper, online, any form!
  • Blogs
  • Encyclopedia: everything from the Britannica set to Wikipedia
  • Text books
  • Fiction: all literature, poetry, and other forms of creative writing
  • Speeches
  • Most texts you will find on google or the internet at large!

You can compare different types of familiar publications using the charts in this file.

With print resources, there are often visual indicators that can help readers determine the nature of a publication. In an online world of full-text, sometimes these indicators are stripped away and it can be more difficult to determine the focus, audience, and purpose of a work. The images below demonstrate some of the differences in presentation of the same topics in scholarly and popular periodicals.

Eating Disorders cover and People Magazine cover

Time Magazine cover and Climatic Change cover


Here are a few options for helping you to examine your sources:

  • Most databases allow for users to sort by format and type-- search results can be limited to newspapers, peer-reviewed journals, or magazines.
  • Click on the titles of publications within a database to learn more about its publication process, audience, and more.

Types of Periodical Articles