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Psychology 325: Research Methods in Psychology

Resources and search strategies for the Psychology Research Methods course.

Is it Scholarly? (video)

Characteristics of scholarly sources (Activity)

Identifying Scholarly Source Characteristics

It can be difficult to identify scholarly sources. Not all scholarly sources look the same, and popular and scholarly sources can have similar characteristics (citing scholarly research, for example). Similarly, both popular and scholarly sources can be biased or have errors. Determining whether a source is popular or scholarly involves reviewing a variety of source characteristics, time, and practice.

1. Review the Sources

There are two sources linked below. Both of these sources are trustworthy and could be used to support research, but one is scholarly  and the other is popular. Practice spotting the differences between the two articles linked below. Without reading either source, try to note each article's author, audience, purpose. Pay attention to number and  types of sources each article cites. Compare vocabulary of the two sources and the type of visuals the articles feature.

Popular Source

Scholarly Source

2. Sort the source characteristics

Next, match the source characteristics listed on the left with the appropriate source type, popular or scholarly. To do this, drag the tiles on the left to the correct placeholders in either the "Scholarly Source" section (the top set of drop zones) or the "Popular Source" section (the bottom set of drop zones). Review the sample popular and scholarly sources above for clues.

3. Reflect or Discuss

Discuss with classmates or reflect on your own:

  • Imagine you have been assigned a research paper, and you are allowed to cite both popular and scholarly sources: How would you decide which sources to use in your writing? What makes a "useful" source?