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Modern Languages: Scholarly Sources

How can I tell if a source is scholarly or popular?


Here are some basics:

Popular Magazines/Newspapers:

  • glossy, pretty pages with lots of advertisements and pictures
  • written by hired reporters for a general audience
  • short, easily read articles

Scholarly Journals:

  • reports on research, may have data, charts, graphs and tables
  • written by experts in the field and reviewed by other scholars before publication
  • long articles with citations and usually having bibliographies at the end
  • often somewhat dull looking - usually fewer advertisements than popular magazines

Where do I find scholarly sources?

You should use one of our library databases to find scholarly articles!  Check out our suggestions on the Find Articles tab.

Why should you use the library databases and not Google?

Most of the time, scholarly publications are not available to the general public, nor are they available for free on the internet.  Individuals or organizations (such as a library) must subscribe to these publications.  Because subscriptions are expensive, many choose to access this content through libraries. 

Often, content from scholarly journals is indexed in databases that the library subscribes to.  The content is on the web, but it is not accessible unless you are affiliated with the institution that subscribes.  Searching using the library databases isn’t the same thing as finding a website through a regular Google search.  Sometimes we call this part of the web you cannot access through search engines the Invisible Web.  Here's an illustration:

The library databases also have all sorts of specialized search tools to make it easier to do academic research!

Sometimes the full text of the article is available through the database; other times it is only a citation to the article and you will need to find the print version of the article in the library or order the article through interlibrary loan if we don’t subscribe to it.  Using the library to access articles means you can get articles for free!

Instructor Contact Information

Modern Languages Librarian Liaison:
Gaylord Robb (