Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

History - Historical Research

A general guide to historical research

How to identify scholarly from non-scholarly works

What makes a book, book chapter, or journal article scholarly?

  • They are written by experts such as researchers, professionals, and professors to present their research and analysis.  These works contribute to scholarship in a particular field or discipline and become part of the scholarly conversation with their peers.
  • Typically, for books, they are published by an academic press.  For example, this would include publishers like Oxford University Press, Sage Publishing, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, and Harvard University Press.

  • Scholarly articles are published in scholarly journals and are often peer reviewed.  These publishers are often university presses, scholarly associations, or academic publishers such as Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer Nature, Sage Publications, Cambridge University Press, University of Chicago Press, and the Southern Historical Association
  • The author's credentials are typically listed.
  • The author cites their sources using in-text citations, footnotes, or endnotes and references them in a reference list or bibliography.  

What makes a source non-scholarly?

  • Sources that could resemble scholarly sources but are not scholarly include trade journals, magazines, and newspapers.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that even though a source may not be scholarly doesn't mean that it is not a useful source.  For instance, historians often rely on historical newspapers as a primary source for their research.  These non-scholarly sources could help provide you with contextual information as well.
  • Professional or trade journals are typically written by practicing professionals and discuss trends in a particular field.
  • Popular magazines such as TIME and National Geographic and newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post may be reputable and well-regarded but they are not scholarly sources.
  • Works of fiction such as novels, novellas, and short stories are also not scholarly sources.

Reference: Scholarly Sources: A Sequenced Tutorial, Oakland University Libraries