Academic or scholarly sources are aimed at an academic audience. They are written by an academic researcher, typically within a university, and are written for other scholars, including students.
The most common academic sources are books and journal articles.
For most assignments, books should be the starting point for your research. They will give you an introduction to your topic and an overview of the key theories and concepts involved. You can use Locate to search for books.
It is rarely necessary to read a whole textbook from start to finish. In fact, this is normally an inefficient use of your time. Instead, you should:
Use the contents page, at the start of the book, to find a chapter or section that is relevant to your topic.
Use the index, at the end of the book, to find a particular theory, author or specific topic.
If you are reading an e-book, use the search function to look for theories, authors or specific topics.
Depending on your course, you may be expected to use professional sources of information, as well as academic sources. These are resources that are written for professionals working in your chosen field. For example, you might use things like NICE Guidelines in Health, British Standards in Engineering, or market research information in Business.
Check your subject guide to find advice about appropriate professional sources to use in your subject area, and resources the Library subscribes to which can give you access.
Depending on your course and your assignment, it can sometimes be appropriate to use websites as well as academic sources. Unfortunately, while there is lots of fantastic and reliable information available for free on the internet, there is also a lot of content which is of low quality or not appropriate for you to use. You should be evaluating all of the information you use in your assignments, but this is particularly important for websites.
For more guidance about evaluating information, work through the How to evaluate resources course on LinkedIn Learning.
Studying at university requires you to work at a very high level. In most assignments, you will be expected to use academic sources because they provide you with information that is advanced enough for your level of study.
Academic sources also tend to be more accurate and reliable. They are usually written by expert authors who have studied the topic for many years, and are often put through the peer review process (see the video in the Journal Articles box for more information about peer review).
You will get better marks in your assignments if you reference a good number of high quality, academic sources.
Journal articles are short papers, usually written on a narrow topic area. They are part of larger issues called journals, which are published on a regular basis.
Journal articles are a great resource to use. They will cover more specific topics and go into more detail than a textbook. They also usually contain more up to date and cutting edge research than books. Many journal articles also go through the process of peer review. Watch the video below to find out what peer review is and how it acts as a an extra quality control step.