You may not be aware of this yet, but academic sources are very important to students of all ages. When you need to write an essay on a complex topic, you need to support all your statements and ideas with accurate information. And where does this information come from? Well, from various sources, of course! While there are plenty of examples of academic sources, some sources are better than others.
Keep in mind that you have to list the resources you’ve used to conduct the research and to write the academic paper in the Bibliography or Works Cited section. And we can assure you that your professors really do check your academic sources. Your grade depends on them in large measure actually.
Table of Contents
What Are Academic Sources And Why Do You Need Them?
Let’s start with the beginning. What are academic sources? It’s relatively difficult to give you a very specific academic sources definition because there are many different opinions on what an academic source really is.
If you are wondering “what are scholarly sources?”, you now have your answer. “Scholarly sources” is just another name for academic sources.
Various Types Of Academic Sources
There are various ways to source data for your academic research paper. When working on an essay, you can use information from peer reviewed sources, academic journals from sites like Science Direct, DOAJ (directory of open access journals) and even from non scholarly sources. Very few professors demand that you use only information from scholarly works. Something you need to keep in mind is that there are several types of academic sources. Here are the main resources of information you can use as a student researcher:
- Primary sources.
What is a primary source? A primary source is also referred to as “raw data.” These are the resources that are original and that are the basis for all the other sources. In other words, these are all original written works that have been published in academic journals and publications. Furthermore, primary sources are direct information, they are also freshly collected data for the purpose of research. For research purposes, primary data provides a researcher with the exact information they are sourcing for. But, aside from this, gathering primary data requires a lot of input before you can access needed information. This is to say that primary sources require effort before they can be accessed.
There are so many primary source examples a researcher can explore. Some of them include:
- Focus group
- Case study
Although primary source is not the only way to access information, certain research work requires primary sources to attain its purpose. This has become one of the reasons why primary sources are still highly regarded in research writing.
- Secondary sources.
What is a secondary source? Apart from primary sources, another way to source data is through a secondary source. Secondary sources are data previously or originally obtained from a primary source. Secondary data relies more on analyzing original sources for the purpose of information. Many researchers prefer using a secondary source for collecting data mostly due to the ease in accessing this information. When using a secondary source for research, it is important that these sources are accurately referenced; else, it will be regarded that the research is plagiarized. There are so many secondary source examples for the purpose of research. They include:
- Journal publications
When a primary data passes from the original source to another researcher, it automatically becomes secondary data. A source is classified as secondary so long as the data is not mainly collected by the researcher.
- Tertiary sources.
What is a tertiary source? These resources normally contain both the primary and the secondary resources. In other words, tertiary sources can be abstracts that summarize sources, indexes that organize sources, and even databases (these are basically online indexes, but they may include an abstract for each work). Other tertiary source examples include:
But why are scholarly sources more appropriate for academic research? Do you always have to use information from primary, secondary or tertiary resources? Truth be told, it is a good idea to use these as your research source. However, it is perfectly OK to use information from other sources as well, as long as they are credible and accurate. In most cases, you can use sources that come from experts in the field without any problems.
Websites like Wikipedia, on the other hand, are not suitable for academic research. Why? Because they are user-maintained and users are not always experts. The information you find on such sites is generally unacceptable and cannot be used as academic sources in an academic paper.
But why are scholarly sources more appropriate for academic research? Do you always have to use information from primary, secondary or tertiary resources? Truth be told, it is a good idea to use these as your primary source. However, it is perfectly OK to use information from other sources as well, as long as they are credible and accurate. In most cases, you can use sources that come from experts in the field without any problems.
Websites like Wikipedia, on the other hand, are not suitable for academic research. Why? Because they are user-maintained and users are not always experts. The information you find on such sites is generally unacceptable in an academic paper.
Here Is How You Find the Best Academic Sources
There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet regarding where to find academic sources. Many companies will have you believe that the only way to get access to quality sources is to buy their subscription. Some people will tell you that you need to go to the local library if you need quality material. But it’s not that difficult. Here is how to find academic sources quick and easy:
- Start with Google. You can find plenty of free peer-reviewed articles online, as well as many popular sources. For this, you will need to use Google Scholar – which is a search engine that is designed to search only for academic articles. You can find huge amounts of academic scholarly sources there.
- Visit the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) website and use the search box to find what you are looking for. Keep in mind that open access journals are provided free of charge. You can find thousands of academic journals and various other scientific resources there.
- Try to find search engines that provide scholarly research features. Google Scholar is not the only one. In many cases, the results from these search engines will provide you with either the full text of the articles, or at least an abstract.
- Why not try visiting the websites of the most prominent academics you know? Many of them are sharing a huge amount of information with their visitors, and you probably won’t have to pay a dime to get these resources. Many professors also have PDF copies of their publications on their websites.
- If you are after laws and other policy papers, go straight to government websites. You will find plenty of primary documents there, and all are accurate and peer reviewed. It’s a great way to get academic sources online.
There are also databases from where you can download a long list of academic sources. However, in most cases an academic sources database like ProQuest, Scopus, Web of Science, The McQuade Library, EBSCOhost, or INFOTRAC will ask you to get a paid membership. And the membership can be quite expensive, unfortunately.
What Are Popular And Scholarly Academic Sources
When conducting research, especially, when you are searching for secondary sources, you’ll often come across popular sources.
Difference Between Scholarly and Popular Sources
The major difference between scholarly and popular sources is the validity of the available information. For the purpose of research, it’s academically advised to rely more on scholarly sources.
Between scholarly and popular sources, which is the best? It depends on what type of paper you need to write and what you need to write about. In most cases, popular sources are perfectly acceptable and your professor will not have any objections. However, remember to avoid user-maintained websites like Wikipedia because the information is not accurate in many cases. If you can find high quality scholarly sources, it is best to use them. It is important to find something trustworthy and reliable, especially if you’re writing a thesis and writing dissertation literature review for it.Your professor will surely appreciate it and you will most likely be rewarded with some bonus points.
Below is a table outlining the characteristics of popular and scholarly sources.
|Scholarly Sources||Popular Sources|
|Author||Scholars and researchers usually within the academia.||Content writers, staff writers, anyone who researches information to publish online.|
|Documentation Source||Valid references, bibliographies and all cited sources.||Often without a known or acknowledged source.|
|Editorial Process||Peer reviewed by research experts within the academia.||Mostly reviewed on a surface-level by an in-house editor.|
|Purpose||To contribute to research study and provide solid knowledge and findings in an academic area.||MTo provide quick-access information on a particular subject.|
|Article Structure||Starts with an approved proposal. Abstract, literature review, methodology, objectives, results and findings, references.||Mixture of short or long-form articles.|
|Publication Frequency||Quarterly, Bi-monthly, Annually||Daily, weekly, monthly|
|Titles||Academic-based||Less wordy, usually straightforward|
|Language||Follows an academic writing style of formal and complex writing style.||Simple, easier to read and less formal.|
|Target Audience||Academics, scholars, researchers, lecturers||General audience|
|Research Value and Relevance||Contributing to existing studies and research.||Provision of information on current topics.|
Now that you know what scholarly sources are and where you can get academic peer reviewed sources from, it’s time to discuss another way to get access to the resources you need. Instead of paying for memberships and searching for hours on various search engines, why not let an expert handle it for you? An academic writing company usually has paid memberships with most databases and online libraries. Their academic writers are using these resources to write the essays for their clients, of course.
Need Help With Writing Your Thesis?
Still wondering “what are peer reviewed sources”? Or “I still need to do my thesis…” Need help finding the best resources on the Internet quickly? If the deadline for your academic paper is tight, you need to take action right away. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on various premium subscriptions and you definitely don’t have enough time to search everywhere for the academic sources you need. This is why your best option is to get in touch with a reliable academic writing company and ask their writers to prepare a list of scholarly sources ASAP. And the good news is that you can also get some writing assistance at the same time. If you need it, of course.