VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Find Substantive Sources

Cabell Library

Ask Cabell Library's picture
Ask Cabell Library

Ask Us

What is a substantive source?

What is a substantive source?Substantive articles explore subjects in depth, are written for a general audience, and produced by nationally or internationally recognized publications or organizations. Authors of substantive articles are credentialed journalists, freelance writers, experts or scholars and they are always identified. While a formal bibliography is not typically included, sources are usually acknowledged in the body of a substantive article, which means that an interested reader can review the 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?Some substantive sources are published by organizations with a particular philosophical or political point of view. Students can and should investigate the publication’s viewpoint. 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