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Library Research Skills: Authority & Creation

Library Research Skills

Authority & Creation

As traditional scholarship moves into a digital environment, and new formats of dissemination are created: blogs, wikis, podcasts, tweets, etc. – the onus is on the researcher to identify appropriate formats and determine authority in context of their research needs.

Whether scholarly or non-scholarly, sources may be needed to serve different purposes in you research. For example:

  • Provide background information
  • Serve as an exhibit that will be analyzed or interpreted
  • Offer arguments about the topic
  • Define the method you will use in your analysis of exhibits

However, when seeking to support your argumentation within a discourse community such as Translation Studies, authoritative (recognized, respected, influential) voices should be identified and the formal method of academic dissemination and assimilation utilized.

Academic texts may be delivered in various formats and mediums and share common elements with non-scholarly sources. The following criteria do simplify the difference but should allow you to pose questions to evaluate a source:


  • Purpose:
    • Scholarly or academic sources will have a specific viewpoint, and their primary purpose is to present new knowledge or a new perspective in a subject area - and to disseminate this to an interested scholarly community. 
    • Non-scholarly sources may inform, entertain or persuade an audience of a particular point of view, and generally do not present a full and balanced analysis of a topic. 
  • Scope:
    • Scholarly work usually identifies a research problem and takes a focused and in-depth look at the topic
    • Non-scholarly sources tend to treat a topic superficially and/or give a broad overview.
  • Author and Audience:
    • Scholarly sources are written by academics, historians, researchers and experts for other academics, historians, researchers and students.
    • Non-scholarly works tend to be written for the general public.
  • Terminology and Style:
    • ‚ÄčScholarly sources use terminology specific to a field of study and a formal writing style - and assume the reader will understand terms and theories discussed.
    • Non-scholarly sources may use a less formal writing style and the language may be easily understood by the general public
  • Documentation:
    • Scholarly works substantiate arguments and theories by citing relevant scholars or sources.
    • Non-scholarly sources may cite facts, figure and opinions without providing appropriate references or evidence.
  • Publisher:
    • Most scholarly books are published by academic publishers, usually university presses or recognised academic trade publishers. Scholarly articles are published in peer-reviewed journals and/or recognised journals.
    • Non scholarly sources can be published by various types of publishers: trade publishers, self- or vanity publishers.
Creating and presenting new knowledge or perspectives within a discourse community takes much research and requires specific compilation and dissemination processes. Academic formats generally include extra features like abstracts, indexes, glossaries, acknowledgements, prefaces, and most importantly, all include bibliographies (footnotes, endnotes, Works Cited). In addition, most scholarly sources have undergone some level of review and evaluation before being disseminated.


Journal articles

An article written for publication in a scholarly journal may undergo rigorous evaluation through a peer review process. Manuscripts (unpublished paper/thesis) are evaluated by specialists/scholars in the the same field as the author. They assess the quality of the scholarship, reliability of findings and relevance to the field. Not all academic journals are peer reviewed and there are several ways to determine this:

  • If available, select the peer-reviewed option on a research database
  • Check a journal’s editorial page and submission guidelines

Some journals are considered to have more “impact” in their discipline than others. Impact figures are generally based on the number of citations that articles in a journal receive, in a given period of time.  Tools that help identify peer-reviewed journals and if available - their impact, include:

Scholarly books

These are usually reviewed by the author's peers, before being accepted for publication by reputable university or academic trade publishers. Examples of reputable publishers in translation studies include: Benjamins, Rodopi, St Jerome (now part of Routledge/Taylor & Francis) and Routledge.

Published books may be reviewed in a foreword in the book itself or in academic journals and book review sources, by scholars in the field. These reviews can be used to assess how the book has been received in its discourse community. Do not rely on a publisher's blurb to evaluate a book.

Other texts

Tertiary academic resources, like textbooks, manuals and encyclopaedias, are generally reviewed by curriculum specialists or a publisher’s editorial board before publication. When published, these books are reviewed in a discipline’s core journals or general book review sources. Books (specifically textbooks) that have more than one edition, may indicate their importance to a subject area.

Authors may also share their knowledge in non-academic environment through interviews, essays, blogs and presentations. These formats generally do not go through a peer review process and should be evaluated in terms of their purpose to your research. 


Academic sources can be classified as primary, secondary or tertiary,  these descriptions are fluid however and sources can serve more than one category. 


  • Primary sources generally present original thinking, represent or report an event, a discovery or new information. Journal articles, conference proceedings, theses & dissertations fall within this description. However, any source can be classified as primary if it serves as an exhibit or as evidence of a phenomenon in a piece of research or commentary.

  • Secondary sources may interpret, critique, collate and synthesize the theories and research presented in primary sources. Examples of academic texts that may fall within this category include books, journal articles, reviews and editorials that critique or review primary sources.

  • Tertiary sources provide an overview or summary of a subject, and draw from both primary and secondary sources. The information is represented as factual, and is usually descriptive rather than analytical. Tertiary sources include textbooks, manuals, and reference sources, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. Other tertiary sources include indexing tools such as bibliographies, research databases, indexes & abstracts, and search engines.

Parts of an Academic Source


Authority is Constructed and Contextual
Authority of information resources depends upon the resources’ origins, the information need, and the context in which the information will be used. This authority is viewed with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)  


Information Creation as a Process

Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)