VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Find Substantive Sources

Community Engagement Librarian

Donna Coghill
Cabell Library, 121K
(804) 828-6554

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What is a substantive source?

What is a substantive source?
Substantive material is written to engage and inform the general audience. Substantive articles are rich in detail, explore subjects in depth and, at the same time, are easier to read than scholarly articles. Substantive articles are published by nationally or internationally recognized entities or organizations. Authors of substantive articles are credentialed journalists, freelance writers, experts or scholars and they are always identified by name. While a formal bibliography or list of sources is not typically included, sources are usually acknowledged in the body of a substantive article, which means that an interested reader can find sources in order to access their credibility or to explore a subject in more depth.

How should I use substantive sources?
Substantive sources are a good way to learn about current trends and issues related to a topic. 

What else should I consider when looking at substantive sources?
You should be aware that some substantive sources are published by organizations with a particular philosophical or political point of view. Students can and should investigate what views a publication adheres to. In an academic research paper material from substantive sources should be balanced with material from scholarly sources. Claims that are made about a subject should be supported with the kinds of evidence that are mostly highly valued by experts in that field. Such evidence is often found in scholarly sources.

Comparing Sources