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Hallmark Awards How-To: Academic vs Non-Academic Sources

Hallmark Awards How-To: Academic vs Non-Academic Sources

During the research phase of your Honors in Action Project, your chapter can consult both academic and non-academic sources. However, only academic sources may be listed on your Honors in Action Project Hallmark Award entries.

So, how do you tell the difference? Let’s look at what “academic” and “non-academic” mean, and what qualifies as each.

Academic Sources

An academic source is an article written by a professional in a given field. It is edited by the writers’ peers and may take years to publish. Some characteristics:

  • Formal language
  • Jargon — words and terms associated with the field
  • Multiple authors, with their names and credentials listed
  • List of references

Academic articles are often found in scholarly journals, such as something you might find in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Incidentally, the data found in the DOAJ is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection. Other examples of academic sources include the Journal of Psychology, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and books published by a University Press.

An interview with a subject-matter expert would also qualify as an academic source, but don’t list that interview as both part of your research and part of your action. Your research should lead to the development of the action part of your Honors in Action Project.

Wikipedia should NOT be used as an academic source. This website can be edited by anyone and can therefore not be considered accurate or academic.

Non-Academic Sources

A non-academic source is a newspaper or magazine article, a blog post — something written for the general public. Some characteristics:

  • Informal language
  • May contain slang
  • The author may not be listed
  • No author credentials will be listed
  • No references listed

Non-academic sources are published quickly and can be written by anyone. You’ll find them in places like National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and

So, what can you use, and when?

During the initial phases of your research, you can use news sources — both online and print. These can help you see how your project idea works in the world and how it’s being discussed by the media, experts, etc. But, once you narrow down your focus and research question, you should turn to academic sources.

As you prepare your Hallmark Awards applications for your Honors in Action Project, you can only list eight sources, and those need to be academic. We recommend a mix of reliable sources, including scholarly print publications, credible online resources, and individuals and/or organizations who are authorities in their field.

Be sure to pay attention to how you list your sources on the Hallmark Awards application. A suggested format is included in the Honors Program Guide — see the “Explore More!” section of each theme. While you do not have to use APA or MLA formatting, you’ll want to include the author’s name, title of publication, publication year, and a brief annotation explaining why the source was meaningful to your examination of the Honors Study Topic and how it led directly to the action part of your project.

Join our Hallmark Awards experts in a free PTK Live session on November 28 at 4 p.m. CT as they discuss writing tips. Register now.

Hallmark Award applications for your Honors in Action Project and College Project are due January 24, 2018; the application and judging rubrics are now available.

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