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Syracuse University Libraries

Basic Research Strategies for the Social Sciences: Scholarly vs. Non-scholarly Articles

Basic research skills and resources in psychology, sociology and other disciplines of the social sciences. Research skills include: evaluating sources,finding and identifying 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.

Elements of a Scholarly Article

Elements of a Scholarly Article
Name of Section
Relevant to
Brief summary of the article. Readers making decisions about whether the article might apply to their own research.
Author Bios
Research Institution and department the author is affiliated with and possibly contact information. Readers can decide to research other works by a particular author or try to contact the author about their research.
Gives context and background. Readers learn more about the authors' reasons for taking on this research.
Literature Review
Analyzes, responds to, and/or identifies gaps in related research. Readers want to learn more about the scholarly conversation to which authors are contributing.
Outlines how the research was done and the results found. Those who want to validate, replicate, or adapt the authors' research.
Reflects on the implications of the research. Readers want to learn about the potential impact of the research.
In-text Citations/References

In-Text Citations - References found in the text of the article if sources are quoted, summarized or paraphrased.

References -List of works cited by the authors in the article.

In-text Citations -to help readers easily find sources in the References or Cited Works page that corresponds to the referenced passage (MLA Style Guide).

References - Information necessary for the reader to locate and retrieve any source the authors have cited in the body of the article.

Supplemental materials, including examples of instruments, such as charts, or data-sets that may have been used as part of the research. Those who may want to adapt these materials for their own uses.


Source: University of Albany, University Libraries –Common Elements of a Scholarly Article

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

A Comparison Chart - Types of Periodical Articles