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Political Science

How do I know if I'm using a scholarly resource?

College professors will usually require some scholarly (also academic, peer-reviewed) sources.

Three things to look for:

  • Was it written by experts? The authors are specialists in their field, list their educational background (e.g. PhD), and are usually affiliated with a university.
  • Is it based on research? The findings are based on a study conducted by the authors, or on a review of other expert literature. There will *always* be a bibliography or works cited list of the research used.
  • Who is the intended audience? Scholarly sources will use complex, expert language and be fairly lengthy. Most academic research is published in peer-reviewed journals or books, not freely available through Google.

Evaluating Sources

Anyone can publish online, so make sure to evaluate the reliability and appropriateness of your sources. Consider all of the following when evaluating a source:


  • When was the source published?
  • Has it been revised or updated?
  • Have more recent sources proven these findings false, or reinforced them?


  • Does the source relate to your topic?
  • Does it answer your questions?
  • Is it written and researched at an appropriate level?


  • Is the reliable and true?
  • Can it be verified elsewhere?
  • Does it provide sources so you can read the original information?


  • Who wrote it?
  • What are his/her qualifications?
  • Who published it? 
  • Does the publisher have a commercial or ideological motive?


  • Does the source want to convince you of something?
  • What is it trying to prove?
  • Is it truthful, or is it biased in some way?

If you doubt the credibility of a source based on the above criteria, look elsewhere to confirm (or discredit) the source. 

Scholarly Journals vs Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

Scholarly journals are often confused with popular magazines like TimeNewsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. Both are published on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and both consist of short articles on a variety of topics. This chart shows clues that you can look for to determine whether an article comes from a scholarly journal or a popular magazine.