Skip to main content
Library Research Guides

Earth 142: From Stars to Stones

Covers: differences between refereed, scientific literature and other information sources; the process of searching for scientific, scholarly literature; the value of academic integrity and tools to avoid unintended plagiarism.

What is scholarly literature?

Documents written by scholars that communicate scholarship to other scholars.

Some characteristics of scholarly literature:

  • Written by credentialed professors, researchers, or other scholars in a field
  • Follow particular form 
  • Communicate scholarly research
  • Written in vocabulary appropriate to  discipline - often difficult for readers without expertise to fully comprehend
  • Edited by credentialed editors
  • Often peer-reviewed
  •  List references 

How can I tell if an article is scholarly?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who wrote the article?

  • Who edits the journal the article appears in?

  • Who would read this article?

  • Why was this article written?

  • Does the author cite their sources? Is there a bibliography?

Popular Vs. Scholarly Handout

Other sources of value to scholars

  • Technical Reports
  • Trade Literature
  • Grey Literature
  • Newspapers
  • Popular Literature (magazines, zines, blogs, etc).
  • Objects


Peer Review

Scholarly literature that has been evaluated and vetted by experts (outside of the journal editorial staff) in the field as part of the publication process.  Peer review is associated with a higher quality of scholarship.

Check a journal's front page to learn whether a journal is peer reviewed.  Remember, not all articles in peer reviewed journals are peer reviewed.


Primary Research Articles

Publication of original work/scholarship, written by the scholars who conducted the original work or research.  Intended to communicate scholarly activity to peers.  Primary literature is the first place new scholarship and data is published.

What is the difference between a "primary research article" and a "primary source"?

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are:

  • documents (images, maps, statistics, music, research data) that were created at a time closely associated with an event, person, idea, or period that you are studying.
  • often a first-hand account or otherwise closely chronologically connected to a point in time that you are researching.  
  • may be created later by someone with first-hand experience of an event (memoirs or autobiographies, for example).

Secondary sources:

  • discuss and analyze primary sources.
  • are secondary because they are at least one step removed from the primary sources they discuss.
  • are created with the benefit of hindsight, which may offer insights not available from first-hand experiences.
  • Most non-fiction books are usually considered to be secondary sources (since they synthesize many ideas and works, and/or represent information from more than one event or period).