Scholarly and Non-scholarly Sources in Research

There are various sources that a researcher can use in his/her research to support his findings. Basically they are categorized as primary, secondary and tertiary sources. Primary sources as being the most reliable while secondary as the name suggest less reliable and tertiary the least reliable but can be used when primary and secondary sources are not available.

The printed sources can further be classified in scholarly and non-scholarly sources. This classification is only for print sources and it is very important to know whether the source that the researcher has used is a scholarly or non-scholarly source. Scholarly source as the name suggest classifies the printed sources into one that has full referencing, author is known and proper publication information available. On the other hand, the other source the non-scholarly source that may or may not have any of the above information available. For example, there are certain article on the internet and you cannot find the author name so it will be a non-scholarly source.

Difference Between Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources in Research


Scholarly Sources Non-scholarly Sources
Books The author is known The author is unknown
Published with complete publication information: date, publication company, country etc Nonpublished source
Provides full in-chapter and end-citation of sources Incomplete or no citation of sources
May contain technical terms and specific information Contains simple language and easy to understand and comprehend content
Targeted to researchers, students and teachers especially Mostly targeted to general audience
The aim is to seek knowledge with validity, reliability and originality The aim is to reach to general audience and to capture more and more people
The authors are scholars, well-established writers, researchers and expert in that field The author may be a reporter or may or may not have expertise in that field
Example can be “American Journal of Psychology” Example can be “National Geographic Magazine”
Article Author is known Anonymous author
Published in a well known journal Not published, no publishing information available
Provides full list of references used in that article No references are provided like an article that is written for a magazine, newspaper etc
Mostly written and published for a scholarly journal or written for a government website or educational website Written for personal website with .com or .org url


In many ways internet has made the process of research easier by providing innumerable sources on any topic but the problem still persist in using internet sources. The most basic problem is the authenticity of the sources when you read it on the internet. Most article son the internet are written to reach out popular audience and they do not have well researched foundations. This makes it unsuitable for use as a source in a research paper or thesis. While using internet sources for collecting information the student should assess the reliability of the article and the website by checking the author name, and the sources he has provided for the article.

To bring reliability, validity and authenticity to your research paper start your research from your library rather than looking for sources on the internet. It does not mean that all sources on the internet are not reliable it only means that as a student you will find it difficult to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources on the internet. Internet is bombarded with information about any topic but not all sources are authentic. Books and periodicals in your library will provide authentic information that you can use in your research paper with full confidence.


  • Tensen, L. B., Research Strategies for a Digital Age, Thomson Wadsworth, 2nd Ed., Boston, 2007, Pp-18-20
  • Turabian, K. L., A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, The Univ of Chicago Press, Chicago, 8th Ed., 2013, Pp-24-27



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