When you are researching your dissertation, you will need to make extensive use of scholarly sources. But what is a scholarly source, and how can you differentiate scholarly sources from other types of sources?

What is a Scholarly Source?

Scholarly sources are written by scholars or experts. Often, but not always, this author may hold advanced degrees, or may work as a researcher or a professor. A scholarly source is an article, book, or document that has been well-researched and, usually, was peer-reviewed or vetted by other scholars in the field.

Why Use Scholarly Sources in Your Dissertation?

Scholarly sources are reliable sources of data and information. You generally can trust them, and use the information they contain to help support the arguments you want to make in your dissertation. As Darby Ray of Milsaps College points out, though, even though the authors of scholarly sources are experts, it “doesn't mean that the person's interpretation of their field is beyond question or debate; rather, it means that they at least know enough about the field to have an INFORMED interpretation (in other words, one that others ought at least to consider).”

By reading the scholarly sources on your dissertation topic, you'll gain a strong understanding of what other researchers think about your topic. You'll be able to show how your dissertation makes a contribution the field. You'll likely write about the scholarly sources that you consult in the literature review section of your dissertation. A dissertation editor can help you revise your literature review so that it shows that you have a strong understanding of the scholarly sources in your field.

Scholarly Sources are Peer-Reviewed

Most scholarly sources are peer-reviewed. This means that other scholars have read the article or book in question, and have verified the author's findings.

Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles

Articles published in scholarly journals are usually peer-reviewed. You can distinguish between a scholarly journal and other types of periodicals (for instance, magazines or newspapers) because scholarly journals are often published by university presses or scholarly societies, and are edited by people with PhDs, while non-scholarly periodicals are published by commercial presses. The University of Colorado library has provided this handy chart outlining the difference between scholarly journals and non-scholarly periodicals.

Google Scholar filters out non-scholarly sources, so it's a great place to start looking for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles for you dissertation. You can also use databases like JSTOR and ProQuest, depending on what your university library subscribes to. Our dissertation consultants can help you focus your dissertation research strategy.

Finding Scholarly Books

Not every book is a scholarly book, and in your dissertation you will need to find and use books that are legitimate, scholarly sources. A dissertation consultant can help you determine whether or not the books that you are using are scholarly.

Just like scholarly articles, most scholarly books are peer-reviewed. Books published by university presses typically go through the peer-review process. You can also determine if a book is scholarly by checking the author's credentials. Look them up: do they hold an advanced degree, a faculty or researcher position, or are they an expert in their field? If so, then there is a good chance that their book counts as a scholarly source.

Look For Citations

Both scholarly books and scholarly articles will include citations. Just as you will cite all of the sources you use for your dissertation, authors of scholarly sources need to document the sources that they consult. Look for footnotes and parenthetical citations. Non-scholarly articles and books typically don't include citations.

I've Got My Scholarly Sources – Now What?

A dissertation consultant from Dissertation Editor can coach you on how to use scholarly sources effectively. In addition, a dissertaton editor can help you revise your dissertation so that you effectively communicate your knowledge of primary sources. Finally, our dissertation formatting experts can ensure that you cite your scholarly sources accurately!
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