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What Counts as an Academic Source?

Academic source

A common requirement for all academic texts writing is using academic sources and citing them properly. However, for some, the notion of a scholarly source may be vague. Indeed, there are no approved criteria to determine whether a certain source is academic or not. Still, there are the commonly accepted ways to check whether the text you face is good to be cited in your paper or not. I decided to complete a short guideline for you in form of the frequently asked questions about scholarly works to cite. So, read, remember, and use the following info to improve the quality of your academic writing.

What Is an Academic Source Definition?

Let me provide you with a brief definition which later will be elaborated. So, an academic source is a text written by a scholar (hence the synonym: a scholarly source) which aims to clarify, explain, or analyze concepts, ideas, or terms belonging to a certain scientific subject or discipline.

How to Define Academic Source by the Author(s)?

From the definition above, we can say that the author of the academic source is a scholar. What does that mean? Firstly, he/she should be a degree holder, as this is a clear indication of their academic status. Secondly, there should be peer reviewers: people who are experts in the field and check the text on the relevance and correctness before it is published. If in the article/book the author indicates the institution he/she is a part of, this eases the task of the determination whether this is what counts as a scholarly source.

What Are the Main Features of an Academic Source? A Checklist

So, if you want to inspect whether a certain text is scholarly, answer to the following questions:

  • Is this text written by a true scientist?
  • Is he/she correctly citing the other reliable scientists in this work if using someone’s ideas? Is there a reference list?
  • Are there the author’s credentials specified?
  • Is the language scholarly (formal, exact, and full of terms)?
  • Is the publisher reliable (mostly, scholarly texts are published by university presses or academic institutions/communities like American Psychological Association or Oxford University Press)?

What Is an Academic Source? Types of Sources

Here is a list of types of references that can be scholarly:

  • Book. A scholarly book will most likely be a monograph or a published dissertation. It will be explanatory in its nature and will contain a lot of terms, as well as citations on the works of other scientists who researched on the same or related issue. One may need a lot of time to read such a book. However, it will be a good idea to look through the content page and check only the chapters that may be useful for your particular paper.
  • A journal article. There are a lot of scientific journals which publish a set of articles written by scientists. The journals are often subject-based. The articles may briefly review a certain scientific problem, or include a brief summary of a bigger research paper written. Articles are good to use because they are short (one does not need much time to read it), specific (they discuss a particular specific idea), and concise (the limitation of length makes authors include only what is necessary).
  • Theses and dissertations. Those can be found in specialized libraries and include scientific research on certain issues by people who aimed to complete their Master’s and Ph.D. degrees responsively. You should not wonder what is considered an academic source among these papers: they are all definitely the classic examples of scholarly papers. The reason is that they not only were written by scientists, but also reviewed by their scientific advisors, and, in case of Ph.D. dissertations, by examiners from other educational institutions.
  • Conference papers, scientific meetings reports, etc. Those papers are also scholarly, but most likely they may not be used as independent references, but only as the supplementary ones. The thing is that they do not provide extended information on a certain point.

Is There Any Academic Source Finder?

Surely, there is. However, the question is whether you need an online or offline one.

How to Define Academic Source Online?

One may inspect the article found online based on its author, publisher, etc. However, I will suggest an easier way. Enter ‘Google Scholar’ in your search engine, and enjoy the search in the widest database of scholarly sources. A lot of people ask: “Is Wikipedia a reliable source for academic research?” Google Scholar search will also provide you with an answer to this question, but not directly. The thing is that it will never show a Wikipedia article in its search results. Instead, you will enjoy the links to online copies of reliable sources that somehow deal with your topic.

How to Figure Out What Counts as an Academic Source at a Library?

That is easy. The best academic source finder is available at any library and this is a librarian! He or she will definitely guide you on what texts deal with your topic of interest, as well as may give you a brief evaluation of which are good or bad in your case.

Furthermore, every modern library has a database and search within it. Just sit at the free PC and enter the search request in the form. You may have an opportunity to search by the title, author, year of publication, and/or topics, subjects, or disciplines.

What Is the Final Way for the Academic Source Definition?

If you have read the information above and you are still not sure whether the reference you are about to use is scholarly, there is one more way left: just ask your professor or tutor! I am sure they will be willing to assist you in your academic search, as any good activity should be supported.

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