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Nursing 201 - Tower-Gilchrist - Fall 2023

This guide is for students enrolled in Nursing 201 at Oxford College.
Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources

Scholarly Sources:

  • use the language of the discipline (not written for a general audience)
  • are lengthy - usually longer than 5 pages
  • have numerous citations throughout and references at the end of article
  • have author or authors with credentials in the field (you can tell because usually there is a brief blurb about where the author works, their field of study, and PhD information)
  • are published in scholarly journals (this is a good time to use Google - look at Submission OR About page of the journal - that is where they usually mention they are a peer-review publication)

Non-Scholarly Sources:

  • are written for a general audience
  • may be published in newspapers or popular magazines (not peer-reviewed)
  • typically are shorter in length
  • have authors who are not always an expert in the area
  • frequently list few or no citations or references

Remember: if the article only meets one of these criteria, it is not automatically a scholarly source. It is a culmination of the criteria that make it scholarly.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary - In scientific writing, when a scientist describes their own personal work or original research study it is a primary source. Primary sources include research articles, dissertations, technical reports, or conference papers.  Primary sources are written for a specific audience (usually other scientists or researchers in the field) and to disseminate research findings that allows other scientists to refute or build upon that work.

Secondary - Secondary sources are articles that critique, discuss, or analyze a study. Overall, secondary sources talk about the research conducted by someone else.  Secondary sources include encyclopedias, textbooks, and review articles.

If your professor has not specified which sources you should be looking for, feel free to ask.


Paraphrased from Writing in Biology: A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology, Karen Knisely, 2013, 5th edition, W.H. Freeman and Co


  • Which of these two articles is primary and which is secondary?
  • What elements of each helps you to decide?

The Anatomy of a Scientific Research Article

Visit this website to help you read research articles.  Each section is broken down and explained individually.