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


Created by pfrantz on Aug 9, 2012 Last updated Oct 3, 2013