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ENGL 1101 - Payne (Floyd) - Spring 2021: Types of Sources

Scholarly & Popular Sources


Journals, magazines, and newspapers can be divided into four basic categories (ranked here from most reliable to least reliable):

1. Scholarly

2. General Interest / Substantive News

3. Popular

4. Sensational

Think about it - if you were preparing a presentation on political parties, would you trust The Journal of Political Science or the local supermarket tabloid with aliens from Mars on the cover? That's the difference between scholarly and sensational!

SCHOLARLY journals require articles to be reviewed by other experts or scholars in the same field (thus "peer reviewed") who must agree that the article in question meets the standards of that profession.  This ensures that the content of the article is as valid and reliable as possible.

So how do you tell if a journal is scholarly?  Look for an abstract, or citations in the form of bibliographies.  These are both clues.  Most importantly, though, the databases in GALILEO allow you to modify your searches to include only those materials that are peer reviewed!

(More information on the four basic categories can be found here!)

Primary & Secondary Sources

A primary source is an original work created during or around the event being studied. A primary source is not interpretive. 

A secondary source interprets primary sources and the original event/research. It specifically examines events for some sort of (often scholarly) purpose.

Examples of Primary Sources:

Examples of Secondary Sources:





Government Documents (such as a piece of legislation)

Journal Articles (analyzing / interpreting other research)



Newspaper articles (written at the time)


Articles sharing original research

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