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Latin American Democracy - Honors Capstone Seminar - POLS 3996/4996 - 001

Sources and suggestions for the Spring 2021 course

Scholarly, Research, Non-Scholarly, Popular, etc.

Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about source types, we can divide these sources into broad categories such as scholarly and non-scholarly; however, you should evaluate all sources you find and think critically about why and how you are using them. Below are a few characteristics of each and things to consider when using them in your research.

  Scholarly (also referred to as "Research" or "Peer-Reviewed") Non-Scholarly
purpose Often informs and reports on original research done by scholars and experts in the field. May also include sources with general information and established facts. Informs a general audience. May or may not provide in-depth analysis.
authors Articles are written by subject specialists and experts in the field. Articles are written by journalists, freelance writers, or an editorial staff.
audience Intended for a limited audience - researchers, scholars, experts Intended for a broad segment of the population, appealing to non-specialists.
  • Newspaper articles (NY Times, Washington Post, etc.)
  • Magazines (Time, The Atlantic)
  • Blogs
How do I use it?
  • As evidence to support your argument, e.g. you might point to a specific finding in a research study to bolster your own point or opinion.
  • As background/historical information to introduce a topic e.g. you might use information from an encyclopedia article to give your reader an overview of a topic.
  • To engage it's argument, (e.g. you might use an editorial from the New York Times on mental illness to refute in your own paper).
  • A preliminary search tool (e.g. news articles often link to research and data sources that may be "scholarly" or provide a more in-depth analysis).
How to identify it Lengthy list of references to other sources, author credentials May or may not have a list references (often shorter if included at all)

If you have questions about what qualifies as "scholarly" or "credible," ask your instructor or a librarian.

Things to Consider When Reading a Scholarly Article

Consider the following points:

  1. Know your research question or argument. Though your question/argument may change or evolve as you delve deeper into the research process, you will want to have a solid idea of your research focus.
  2. You don't have to read the entire article in order. Start with the abstract which will give you a general summary of the article. If the abstract seems relevant then move to the conclusion or discussion section of the article to gain a better understanding of the article's main claims. At this point if the article does not seem relevant or useful then discard it. However, if the article does seem useful then spend as much time as necessary reading the article.
  3. Read critically. What is the author's argument? You will need to use your judgment when evaluating each source of information. Further research may be necessary if you find the author to be biased or you do not believe the validity of their argument. 
  4. Read the reference section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources. You might also get a better understanding of the major players in the area you are researching. 
  5. Take notes. How you do this is up to you. Make sure you keep your research question and argument in mind so you can be more efficient when taking notes. 

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