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Popular vs. Scholarly Resources

This guide provides basic information about the difference between, and the characteristics of popular and scholarly resourcess.

Popular vs. Academic Materials

A scholarly (or academic) resource is one that is written by experts in the field for experts in the field.  A popular resource is one that is written for the general public.  Your local newspaper is a popular resource.

Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines

Publication has a narrow scope or is limited to a specific field or sub-field of study; goal is to promote and disseminate scholarly research

Publication is designed for a broad, general audience; primary goal is to make a profit

Intended for academic or specialized audiences such as professors, researchers, students

Does not require expertise in the field to understand the information; designed for the general population

Has tables and graphics

Has pictures and media included

Has references, bibliographies, notes and/or works cited included

May have verified facts, but does not include references or bibliographies

Has little or no advertising; included advertising promotes books, journals, conferences

Has advertising

Has an author and author affiliations; authors are experts in their respective field

May or may not have an author listed; authors are generalists, journalists, or freelance writers

Published by a scholarly press or professional organization

Published by a for-profit entity

Editorial board of scholars in the field who review articles prior to publication in a process known as refereed or peer-review

Editor is a journalist who works for the publisher

Databases usually have some mechanism to search for only scholarly, or peer reviewed, articles. Look for a check box on the search screen which will allow you to limit search results to only scholarly journals if your professor requires a scholarly article.

What other professionals say about scholarly and popular sources