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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100: True Detectives in Fiction and Film (Cheever): Evaluating Sources

Scholarly Sources

Academic scholarship tends to come from people (like your professors). It is written primarily for a scholarly community or others in their field. Here are some indicators you can use to figure out if something is a scholarly piece of writing:

  • Look for the author's credentials or institutional affiliation (they will usually have a PhD or are a doctoral student and are either working or studying at a university)
  • The writing will include highly specialized language, specific to a discipline or area of study.
  • Includes extensive citations, bibliographies, or footnotes, showing the author is aware of a body of scholarship relevant to the field.
  • The content has been published by a university or academic press.
  • The author's work is often "peer reviewed" or has gone through a rigorous editorial process by fellow experts in the field. This process can take several years.

Why do we incorporate scholarly writing into our work? 

Identifying scholarly writing: What characteristics of this article indicate that it is scholarly? What can you tell about the author and the publication? 

Shefrin, Elana. "Le Noir Et Le Blanc: Hybrid Myths in Devil in a Blue Dress and L.A. Confidential." Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 3, 2005, pp. 172-181. ProQuest,

Book and Film Reviews

We may find book and film reviews through a variety of platforms online and in print- a blog, a newspaper, a scholarly journal. What value do reviews have in our research? How can we evaluate them?

  • Reviews may tell us a whole range of things- an opinion on whether the critic liked or disliked the work, a synopsis of the plot, or may go in to great depth and analysis.
  • Reviews are written very soon after a book or film's release. This is every different from the time-frame of scholarly publication (We generally won't see peer-reviewed scholarly writing about a new book or film for several months or a year)
  • Time-frame is important for another reason. The critical reception of a book or film is not stagnant- people's understanding can change over time. Works that were labeled failures or considered insignificant might have a lasting impact or later be considered groundbreaking for their time.
  • Reviews may be written by people who are academic scholars, cultural critics, or journalists, but may also be self-published by anyone on the internet! When encountering a variety of writers we need to understand their level of expertise and reputation in their field.
  • The publication or platform where you find the reviews is significant for similar reasons. What is the type of writing you typically find there? What is the reputation and scope of the source?
  • Beyond telling us about the book plot or whether a film is "fresh or rotten" when we look at a range of reviews from different sources, we may be able to discern something larger about society's reception. We can compare and contrast people's opinions or "takes" and see what these reviews are collectively saying.

What are these reviews telling us? Who is the author, what can you tell about their expertise? What kind of publication is this? What is the timeframe it was written in?

Guerrero, Ed. “Devil in a Blue Dress.” Cineaste, vol. 22, no. 1, Jan. 1996, p. 38. EBSCOhost,

McCarthy, Todd. "Devil in a Blue Dress." Variety, Sept. 18, 1995.

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