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TCH 204 - Introduction to Elementary Education

Types of Sources

Adapted from “Types of Sources” by UBC Libraries is licensed under CC BY 4.0


What is a Scholarly Source?

A scholarly publication is one in which the content is written by experts in a particular field of study - generally for the purpose of sharing original research or analyzing others' findings. Scholarly work will thoroughly cite all source materials used. The primary audience for this sort of work is fellow experts and students studying the field. As a result the content is typically much more sophisticated and advanced than articles found in general magazines, or professional/trade journals.

In brief, scholarly work is:

  • written by experts for experts
  • based on original research or intellectual inquiry
  • provides citations for all sources used

To see the typical components of a scholarly journal article check out the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from North Carolina State University Libraries.

Many scholarly sources are also subject to "peer review" prior to publication, although not all. This means that independent experts in the field review, or "referee" the publication to check the accuracy and validity of its claims. Keep this in mind during your research! Professor Jamison has requested that some of your sources be research-based/peer-reviewed.

Understanding Peer Review by Caitlin Stewart

Some publications have the major characteristics of a scholarly work but are not peer-reviewed. Many scholars consider these resources that are not peer-reviewed still scholarly, although others do not. These can be valuable sources for your research but the extent to which a particular work would benefit from formal scrutiny is not always clear. Some sources that may be scholarly and NOT peer reviewed include:

  • Government documents
    • A vast array of publications are produced by government bodies. Some of these will not be peer-reviewed but are produced by subject experts and have most of the characteristics of a scholarly publication. 
  • Theses & Dissertations
    • While subject to rigorous review, theses and dissertations are not universally considered to have been peer-reviewed. Theses and dissertations have extensive references and can often be used as a tool to discover further sources. 
  • Books from academic/university presses
    • If a book's editorial board is not comprised of subject experts it cannot be considered peer-reviewed, yet it may still be a very useful source. Ask yourself: is the author an expert in the field? Does the book have all the other criteria of a scholarly publication besides being peer-reviewed? 

What is a Popular Source?

While many of your projects will require you to read articles published in scholarly journals or books, there is also a wealth of information to be found in more popular publications. These aim to inform a wide array of readers about issues of interest and are much more informal in tone and scope. Examples include general news and business and entertainment publications such as Time Magazine, Business Weekly, Vanity Fair. Note, special interest publications which are not specifically written for an academic audience are also considered "popular" i.e., National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today.

In brief:

  • Written by journalists or generalists for the larger public.
  • About popular topics of interest such as news and current events, entertainment, popular culture, etc. 
  • Have an informal tone and scope

What is a Trade Publication?

These are more specialized in nature than popular publications, but are not intended to be scholarly. These types of publications are aimed at experts in the field and/or keen amateurs, but the content focuses on news, trends in the field, promotional material etc. Research findings are not typically disseminated here - though they may report that a scholarly publication is forthcoming. These types of publications typically will contain more advertising than a scholarly journal - though it's usually targeted to the field in some way. Examples: Publishers Weekly; Variety; Education Digest

In brief:

  • Written by professionals for experts and keen amateurs in a given field
  • About discipline-focused news, trends in the fields, promotional material, etc. 
  • More relaxed publications (less rigorous) than scholarly publications in a given field

Test your Knowledge

Source 1

What kind of source is this?
Scholarly: 28 votes (96.55%)
Popular: 0 votes (0%)
Trade: 1 votes (3.45%)
Total Votes: 29

Source 2

What kind of source is this?
Scholarly: 4 votes (18.18%)
Popular: 12 votes (54.55%)
Trade: 6 votes (27.27%)
Total Votes: 22

Source 3

What kind of source is this?
Scholarly: 2 votes (10%)
Popular: 12 votes (60%)
Trade: 6 votes (30%)
Total Votes: 20

Source 4

What kind of source is this?
Scholarly: 1 votes (5%)
Popular: 7 votes (35%)
Trade: 12 votes (60%)
Total Votes: 20

Source 5

What kind of source is this?
Scholarly: 19 votes (100%)
Popular: 0 votes (0%)
Trade: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 19

Teaching and Learning Librarian

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Caitlin Stewart
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