Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

Scholarly resources present original, in-depth research. The source has been reviewed by academic peers to ensure the validity of its research methods and findings.

Popular resources are intended for a general audience and are typically written to entertain, inform, or persuade.

Depending on your research question, both scholarly and popular sources can be appropriate for your purposes. However, keep in mind that research assignments will often require you to use scholarly materials. Table 1.1. below will help you to distinguish between an article from a scholarly journal and an article from a popular publication.

Table 1.1. Difference Between Scholarly and Popular Sources
Author Subject experts, scholars Journalists, students, popular authors, no author listed
Publication Format Journals Magazines; newspapers; trade journals: business, finance, industry (written by experts but not peer-reviewed)
Appearance and Design Mostly text; some tables and charts; 5 or more pages Flashy covers, advertisements
Language Complex, academic writing style; technical terms and concepts Simple, plain language aimed at the general public
Editorial Process Peer-reviewed by multiple experts in the same field Reviewed by one in-house editor or no editor at all
Intended Audience Specialist readership of researchers, including students, professors, and subject experts General readership
Citations Includes a bibliography or reference list and in-text citations or footnotes; follows an academic style guide (e.g., APA) No formal citations
Examples Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, PLOS One, The Lancet Women’s Health, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail


Check Your Understanding

Which sources are scholarly and which ones are popular? Click on images below to learn more.



This H5P activity was created by by Lauren Stieglitz for Library Skills for 2nd Year Biological Sciences. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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Introduction to the Library and Library Research by Margaret Vail and Karina Espinosa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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