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Boatwright Memorial Library

Humanities & Film Librarian

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Nick Dease
Boatwright Library, Rm. 185
261 Richmond Way
University of Richmond, VA 23173

Identifying Scholarly Sources

Scholarly writing or academic scholarship tends to come from people (like your professors) producing knowledge and engaging in conversation with fellow scholars in their field.

  • The author most likely will list their credentials such as their highest degree, university affiliation, and department.
  • The writer uses highly specialized language, specific to a discipline or area of study.
  • The work 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 an academic institution or university press, the journal is specific to a field of study or discipline.
  • The author's work is most likely "peer reviewed" or has gone through a rigorous editorial process by fellow experts in the field, which can take a long time. This timeframe can be an impediment for those doing research on current topics.

Remember- academic scholarship is only one type of information source. It isn't necessarily more valid or objective than other types of sources, you should use these sources as your research requires. Always be thinking critically about the author's methodologies and data analysis, and look for clear biases and political perspectives.

Let's look Dr. Maurantonio's article:

Maurantonio. (2021). Burning Karen’s Headquarters: Gender, Race, & the United Daughters of the Confederacy Headquarters. Memory Studies14(6), 1159–1172.

Notice the abstract summarizing the article, how the author organizes their article into a distinct structure- including an introduction explaining their research question, citations from other scholars and other kinds of sources, and a distinct structure. Depending on what the scholar's discipline is, the format of their paper may be organized a certain way, emphasizing certain elements more than others.


Evaluating Different Kinds of Sources of Information

We gather information from all types of sources. Depending on what our project is, many types of sources might be referenced:

  • Policy reports from grassroots activist or advocacy groups, NGO's, and non-profits
  • Personal narratives, memoirs, oral histories
  • Opinion, or think pieces in popular media platforms
  • Social media like Twitter, TikTok, Discord, or Instagram
  • News journalism, podcasts, or documentaries
  • Traditional, Indigenous, and local knowledge
  • Artistic expression like visual art, music, or film

These types of sources can be particularly useful for curriculum or for teachers!

Our job is to be critical- always ask yourself, why is this source relevant to my research project? Why are you choosing to cite it? You might reference a source for any number of reasons. Maybe you need a collection of tweets that reflect public opinions from a specific group of people, oral histories, newspaper articles, or archival images. Regardless of whether you are looking at a scholarly article or a blog post, always make sure that you understand where the information is coming from. Look for the author's credentials and determine their areas of expertise, opinions, or biases. Analyze the publication or platform and determine its purpose or audience- is it meant to inform, persuade, or entertain? Is it intended for a scholarly audience, the general public, or a specific group of people? Remember, there is no such thing as a neutral source of information, but some sources are more subjective than others.

Let's look at Dr. Maurantonio's article again and see what sources she cited and try to understand how these sources were useful in her research. She is gathers scholarly sources, tweets, news articles, encyclopedia entries and more, to answer what does "Karen" even mean, what is the history of this archetype? All these different sources have a role to play in providing context for the article.