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ENGL 1102 Harrison: Literature in Context: Credibility

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Make sure you are using credible sources for your research. Consider authority, scholarliness, date, and relevance.

Is it scholarly?

What makes a resource scholarly? 

Scholarly articles, books, and other sources are created by experts in the field of study and the intended audience is other experts in the field. They can be challenging reading, but they're highly credible!

Look for:

  • Published in a peer-reviewed journal or a scholarly publisher, e.g. University of Georgia Press.
  • A list of works cited or bibliography citing other credible sources.
  • Intended audience is scholars, researchers, or students.
  • Author's credentials include advanced degrees or affiliation with a university or respected research institution. (Authority alone doesn't constitute scholarliness.)

This video explains more:



Authority relates to the kind of expertise the author has.

Scholars have advanced degrees or do extensive, original research on a topic. By "original research" we mean that the author uses primary sources or analyzes data to come to conclusions about the topic. 

Journalists/ Writers may interview or read the work of scholars or do other investigative work. They may know a lot about the subject area, but they are not scholars.

First-hand experience is valuable in telling one person's story, but realize it is just one person's perspective. A scholar or journalist may interview people with first-hand experience as part of gathering information on a subject.

Look for: 

  • Information about the author near the beginning or end of a book or article.
  • You may need to research the author on the Internet.


Always consider whether the publication date is important.

For Literary criticism, the date is usually less important unless information about the author or perspectives on the author's work have changed over time.

For many topics, the date of publication and the date of the resources the author used affect the accuracy of the information.


Is the resource on topic?

Look for keywords in...

  • the title or description/ abstract.
  • Subject terms assigned to the item
  • In articles, the first few paragraphs and section headings.
  • In a book, look at the chapter titles and in the index.


Exercise: Scholarly or Not?

Are these resources scholarly?

Amy Tan (People magazine)

Gender and authorial limitation in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily." (Mississippi Quarterly)

Faulkner 101 (Oprah's Bookclub)

Faulkner's Southern Belle (Acta Neophilologica)

William Faulkner (Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature, Vol. 2.)

Shirley Jackson's American Gothic (book)

Note: Darryl Hattenhauer is an associate professor of American studies and English at Arizona State University.