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Using Sources: Evaluating Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism: Scholarly or Popular

Characteristics of Scholarly & Popular Sources

Your Needs

There are many sources of information -- websites, books, magazines, journals, newspapers, friends -- and which sources you use depends on your needs.

Always evaluate your sources, even if they come from the library.

For your college research needs, think about whether the source is scholarly or popular

Which is more reliable for college research?
Scholarly sources typically are considered more reliable, due to the expertise of the authors and the rigorous review and editing process.  

Popular sources can also be reliable and appropriate (perhaps for a brief speech or short paper), though you may find more opinions there.   They also do not discuss a topic in as much depth as a scholarly source would. 

Look Closer

Here are a few factors to consider:

Author.  Who is the author? 

Purpose.  Why was the source created?

Date.  When was the source created?

Reliability.  How reliable is the information?

Relevance.  How relevant is the source?

Scholarly or Popular?

Scholarly articles are not always better than popular ones.  Sometimes a newspaper or magazine will serve you better than a peer-reviewed article.  To make the best use of sources, take the time to evaluate them and determine whether they are truly useful for you.