Wednesday, 15 November 2017

What is scholarly literature?

Scholarly literature is material that has been peer reviewed, and includes materials such as journals, text books, conference proceedings and dissertations. For undergraduate work, peer reviewed, scholarly materials should make up 75% or more of our literature sources. For post-graduate work we will be looking at close to 100%; and it is my understanding that for PhDs, we are looking at 100% peer reviewed, scholarly items, with most coming from high impact journals.

To get a feel for what good quality literature is, the University of Northern Carolina has prepared a great video clip, explaining what scholarly materials are here:

The other 25% of our materials at undergraduate level can come from non-peer reviewed sources, such as the internet, newspapers, company or government publications. These non-peer reviewed materials are sometimes called 'populist' literature, meaning presenting views of an 'ordinary' person.

Populist literature is not scholarly, because of the lack of peer review. These materials can range from being just someone's opinion to being very well researched, but without independent double-checking, we can't be sure how verifiable, generalisable and reliable that work is. The lack of review does not necessarily make materials incorrect: but, because of that lack of oversight, it is considered to be less valid. In addition, newspapers, companies and governments will have their own agendas and goals (profit, votes, political ideology, etc), so cannot be considered as unbiased enough to be scholarly.

Hopefully that clears things up for you!

  • Reference: North Carolina State University (2009). Literature Reviews: An Overview for Graduate Students. Retrieved 15 September 2017 from

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