"The price of light is less than the cost of darkness."
Arthur C. Nielsen, Market Researcher & Founder of ACNielsen
"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."
Marshall McLuhan, Canadian Communications Professor
Scholarly sources are creditable; not all creditable sources are scholarly. You may used popular magazines, like Time magazine, to find a topic. Time is a creditable source, and has lots of great and informative articles. It doesn't not go through the same rigor or peer review process as a journal, like Speculum. News papers can be great primary sources, but they are not considered scholarly sources.
What do you need to look for in a scholarly source?
Investigate the author. Look for the credentials of the author; make sure that the author has the authority to write the article you are considering for research. What's the author's expertise; what degree does the author hold; what's the author currently writing; where does your author work? If the author is an authority, the author still needs to use evidence and cite their research using citation (MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, and yes, the Harvard Style). You also want to make sure that the source has been peer-reviewed. Has your source been published in a professional journal or from a reputable press.
Another word for bias is prejudice. Without sound reason, a person holds an inherent believe about an issue or a subject without considering the evidence. Scholars are human; they fall victim to bias, especially if they do not consider evidence from different perspectives. "Telling the truth about history," states Joyce Appleby, "takes a collective effort." Everyone has bias, outright or implicit. Like the quote above, good research takes a collective effort. To help avoid bias, look at what several scholars say on an issue. How many different perspectives can you find? What do other scholars say about what your author researched? You can usually find other points of views in either book reviews or scholarly articles, where another author might forward an antithesis, or a different point of view. If done properly, you will find out if your author's intention possess a high degree of objectivity, or if they have an agenda. Verification is central not only to weighing evidence, but also to eliminate bias.
Since you've done background research and you're practicing verification, you can begin to sense if the author's work is accurate. This doesn't mean that the author was trying to dupe you; the evidence and facts around an issue can change with new information. Is your source provided you with the best information? Can you verify the facts and evidence that the author provides in the article? Is the information up-to-date? If there are a multitude of errors in a source, simply find a better source. You don't want your research to adopt the errors of scholarship that's out of date or inaccurate. Beware: just because a source is old, it doesn't mean that it's not a good source.
Make sure that the sources you've select to be in your Work Cited or Bibliography are relevant to the scope of your research. If you're researching the consequences of the Black Death in medieval Europe, then a scientific article on the modalities of how Yersinia Pestis spread from the host to the victim is perhaps not the best source. You'll learn a bunch of cool stuff, but you will spend a lot of time on a piece that's not relevant to your research. That's a time suck from more beneficial source material. The source should relate to your research topic, and help to answer your research question by providing useful evidence and analysis.
Again, book reviews can help with the scholarly dialogue: they can indicate if an older source is what we call a definitive source. Old or new, definitive sources are staples in research because scholars view them as holding some of the best and most authoritative information.
What is the CRAAP test and why should you use it?
This video goes over what CRAAP stands for and how you can use it to evaluate resources.
Pro tip: Use your academic resources.
We've established that the Reference Librarians are your friends. Tutors in the Learning Commons are also your friends. They will help you navigate databases and look at source material. When in doubt, come to see us professors. We really do love having academic conversations. Below is a short video on the CRAAP test.