What are scholarly sources?

Scholarly sources are publications written by experts in a particular field of study. Their purpose is to share recent research, theories, analyses and insights, or to provide summaries of current thinking in the field. Scholarly sources can include materials such as:

Journal articles are in-depth articles written by experts in a particular field of study, and serve to keep others in the field up to date with the most recent research and findings. They are published in journals, essentially magazines but for an academic audience. Journal articles are usually published multiple times a year and are organised by volumes (and sometimes issues).

Example: Intensive vs standard blood pressure control and cardiovascular disease outcomes in adults aged ≥75 years: A randomized clinical trial

Scholarly books and book chapters contain authoritative information and can provide an overview on a particular subject or research topic. They are useful if you require background information and related research on a topic.

Example: Hypertension and cardiovascular disease

A report is a formal document that identifies and discusses the who, what, where, when, why and how of a particular situation, issue, or problem. They may be produced by government departments, research groups, and not-for-profit organisations.

Example: Medicines for cardiovascular disease

What is peer-review?

Some scholarly sources, particularly journal articles, undergo a process known as peer-review, whereby the article is sent to other experts (peers) in the same field as the author/s for review before publication. These peers review the article to ensure the research presented is accurate and reliable, and based on sound research methodologies. The peer reviewers provide feedback on the article and the author revises the article before resubmitting it. For more information watch: What is peer review?

Primary sources (original research)

Primary sources (original research) provide a first-hand account of a topic under investigation. They report original information on which other research is based and enable students and other researchers to get as close as possible to what happened during a particular event or experience. Examples include: Journal articles reporting new research findings, government documents (e.g. reports) and statistical data.

Journal articles can be primary or secondary sources. Original research articles that provide a detailed account of research activity, written by the scientists/researcher who conducted the research, are considered primary sources. The following points can indicate if an article is original research:

  • Original research articles often include the following sections: background/literature review, methods, results, discussion and conclusion.
  • The title may include the type of study conducted (e.g. Cohort study, Randomised controlled trial, qualitative study etc.)
  • Some articles may be labelled as Original research, Research article, Original article or similar.

Example: Visit-to-visit variability of blood pressure and coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and mortality: A cohort study

Secondary sources

Secondary sources analyse, interpret and summarise evidence from primary sources. The author(s) have not experienced the event first-hand but may include figures, data or quotes from primary sources. Examples include: journal articles providing summaries of previous research, textbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Note: Please check the assessment details in Blackboard for information on the types of sources you are required to find for your assignment.

How do I know if a source is credible?

The following points can help you decide if a source is credible:

  • Authors - are the authors given? Are they affiliated with an educational or research institution or government agency? Do they provide their educational qualifications?
  • Audience - is it written for an academic audience (scholars, researchers)? Does it use specialised or discipline specific language?
  • Purpose - why has the source been written? Is it to report on research on a topic?
  • References - does it provide references to support the research?
  • Peer-review - has it undergone peer review (this mostly applies to journal articles)?