What do you look for when deciding if a resource is scholarly?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first two things to look for are the source of the information and the credentials of the author. Universities are one of the best sources of scholarly articles. Lets take an example from the Internet.

The Internet article "The Comedy of Manners" is an informative about a genre of drama (theater) called comedy of manners. To determine if the article is scholarly, first find the author. This is usually at the bottom or top of the page. In this case, however, the name happens to be absent from the page but present in the browser tab that opens the article: "Tracey Sanders ACU." That Sanders is the author is confirmed in the URL address: /trsanders/.

To find the source of the article and Sanders affiliation, you can isolate and search the beginning portion of the URL address: http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/. You will find that this leads to the Australian Catholic University or ACU. Thus Sanders' credentials are established through the validity of a scholarly source, a university. There are others paths to follow like "About Me" or "Home Page," but the paths described are for when the obvious pathways are missing or inadequate.
Journals that publish the work of researchers or scholars are another one of the best sources. Let's use another Internet example. The article "Jane Austen and the Moralists," discussing Jane Austen as a moralist, has no author designated thus no credentials attributed. Nonetheless, the Internet PDF file does attribute the source publication to a prestigious scholarly journal, The Oxford Review: "Reprinted from ‘The Oxford Review’, no. 1, 1966, by permission of the editor."

Again, if you isolate the beginning of the URL address, http://www.logicmatters.net/, you find that it leads to "Peter Smith’s Logic Matters blog." Smith is now linked to the authorship of the article. At the bottom of the page you'll find "About Me." If you follow About Me, you'll find that Peter Smith is a retired member of the Department of Philosophy at England's Cambridge University: "Peter Smith. I retired in 2011 from the Faculty of Philosophy at Cambridge."

Thus, knowing that the source is a creditable scholarly journal, you now know the author's credentials as he is a Doctor of Logic and taught at one of the world's most prestigious universities. If the connection to Smith as the author seems tenuous, you can confirm his authorship through your campus or local library because you have the details of the journal publication.

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