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Research Guides

Public Health

Evaluating Information

Scholarly Sources

Research at the university level involves the use of more sophisticated resources and tools. In addition to using popular sources such as news and magazine articles, you will almost certainly be required to consult scholarly sources to complete research and writing assignments.  

  • What is a scholarly source?

A scholarly source is a written work that has been peer-reviewed, or refereed.  The terms peer-reviewed and refereed are interchangeable, and refer to a process of evaluation.  Experts (peers) in the subject matter evaluate (review or referee) the work, and deem it deserving or undeserving of publication.  The evaluation measures the authority, accuracy, and relevancy of the work to ensure high quality.  Scholarly sources are widely considered the most reliable sources of information.  

  • Where can I find scholarly sources?

Generally scholarly literature is not freely available in print or online; a subscription to a scholarly journal, or a one-time purchase of a scholarly source is required to gain full-text access.  Research databases subscribed to by Texas A&M University Libraries provide instant, full-text access to thousands of scholarly journals and books.  Scholarly sources, both print and electronic, can also be found in the libraries' catalogs.  

Some scholarly literature is available in open access (OA) journals and repositories.  OA literature is free of copyright and licensing restrictions, making it freely available online.  A list of quality OA journals is available at:  A directory of academic open access repositories is available at:

  • How do I determine if a source is scholarly?

The table below outlines the differences between scholarly and popular sources.  To determine with certainty whether a journal is scholarly, search the journal title in Ulrich's Periodical Directory.  The journal record will indicate if the journal is scholarly with the term "Refereed".  

Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources

  • Written by scholars, scientists, researchers, and/or industry experts.
  • Presents new research, or examines existing research. 
  • Intended for consumption by a sophisticated audience. 
  • Published by scientific and academic journals, university presses, professional societies, and academic publishing houses. 
  • Scholarly articles almost always include an abstract and citations.  Many scholarly articles will also provide a methodology.  
  • Example: Journal of the American Medical Association.  
  • Written by journalists and professional writers.     
  • Provides information and/or opinion on current events or popular culture. 
  • Intended for consumption by a general audience. 
  • Published by mass media companies and popular publishing houses.
  • Example: Newsweek