Scholarly or Popular?
Looking for Articles in Journals and Magazines: Scholarly or Popular?
In academic research it is important to distinguish between scholarly (or academic or expert) and non-scholarly (or popular) sources. While both types of sources are valuable in research, most academic work will favor scholarly sources over popular ones.
One reference source, in addition to the chart below, that can help you make the distinction between scholarly and popular sources, as well as help you determine credibility of periodical sources, is:
- Ulrich's International Periodical Directory Ulrich's provides basic factual and qualitative information about many of the periodicals. It also indicates whether a journal is peer reviewed (refereed).
- Below you'll find a brief comparison of scholarly and popular sources; see Types of Periodicals for more detailed information.
|Scholarly Sources||Popular Sources|
|Audience||Scholars, researchers, practitioners||General public|
|Authors||Experts in the field (i.e., faculty members, researchers)
Articles are signed, often including author's credentials and affiliation
|Journalists or freelance writers
Articles may or may not be signed
|Footnotes||Includes a bibliography, references, notes and/or works cited section||Rarely includes footnotes|
|Editors||Editorial board of outside scholars (known as peer review)||Editor works for publisher|
|Publishers||Often a scholarly or professional organization or academic press||Commercial, for profit|
|Writing Style||Assumes a level of knowledge in the field
Usually contains specialized language (jargon)
Articles are often lengthy
|Easy to read - aimed at the layperson
Articles are usually short, and often entertain as they inform
|General Characteristics||Primarily print with few pictures
Tables, graphs, and diagrams are often included
Usually few or no advertisements
Often have "journal," "review," or "quarterly" as part of the title
Usually have a narrow subject focus
|Contains ads and photographs
Often sold at newsstands or bookstores
Usually have quite a broad subject focus