Doctoral learners are expected to use only verifiable scholarly sources in their coursework and dissertation research. Learners are accountable for verifying the credibility of the source prior to using the source in their writing. To help learners identify appropriate scholarly sources, the following material provides information on the peer-review process and ways to validate sources from non-peer-reviewed publications.
The Peer-Review Process
The peer-review process is a mechanism to ensure the quality and credibility of published scholarly writing. When an author submits research for publication by an academic publishing house or peer-reviewed journal, at least two reviewers with expertise in the field evaluate the manuscript to determine its suitability for publication. The reviewers assess the work for originality, accuracy, integrity of research, and significance to the field as well as overall writing quality and formatting. Only work that meets the publisher’s criteria for rigor and appropriateness will be eligible for publication. The review process is “blind,” meaning the identities of the reviewers and the author(s) remain anonymous to eliminate bias and maintain confidentiality prior to publication.
Popular publishing venues do not maintain scholarly standards for published work. Public Web sites with user-generated content such as Wikipedia and YouTube have no expert-review process, and the public has no assurance of the credibility, accuracy, or reliability of the material on those sites.
Identifying Scholarly Sources
To check the reliability of a source, learners should verify the following:
- Identity and (if available) credentials of the author
- Author’s affiliation with a reputable university, government agency, scholarly publishing house, independent research organization, or other scholarly entity
- Source’s purpose as a legitimate educational resource, not a medium for advertising, entertainment, business solicitation, or political propaganda
Learners can use the chart below to help differentiate sources by type.
The academic community has established a general consensus on the criteria for publishable scholarship, including how to identify scholarly sources. Several reputable university Web sites contain information that reflects this consensus (Belanger, 2006; SCC, 2008; Torian, 2001; UWB, 2007). Learners are encouraged to review these university Web sites to better understand the scholar’s role and responsibilities within the academic community.