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ENGL 105 Arrizon: Is the Source Scholarly? or Popular?

Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Academic Journals are considered scholarly sources because they are created to further knowledge in academic fields and educate, while newspapers and magazines are considered popular sources because they are created to entertain.

Comparing Popular vs Scholarly vs Trade articles

Journal Types: A Comparative Chart

Purpose To inform and entertain the general reader To communicate research and scholarly ideas To apply information; to provide professional support
Audience General public Other scholars, students Practitioners in the field, professionals
Coverage Broad variety of public interest topics, cross disciplinary Very narrow and specific subjects Information relevant to field and members of a group
Publisher Commercial Professional associations; academic institutions; and many commercial publishers Professional, occupational, or trade group
Writers Employees of the publication, freelancers (including journalists and scholars) Scholars, researchers, experts, usually listed with their institutional affiliation Members of the profession, journalists, researchers, scholars
  • Little technical language or jargon
  • Few or no cited references
  • Absence of bibliographies
  • General summaries of background information
  • Contain numerous advertisements
  • Articles are usually brief; between 1-7 pages
  • Little or no background information given
  • Technical language and discipline- specific jargon
  • PEER REVIEW, editorial board
  • Bibliographies included
  • Procedures and materials often described in detail
  • Articles are longer, often over 5 pages
  • Application of new technology
  • Employment issues
  • Practitioners viewpoint
  • Technical language used
  • Interpretation of research trends and issues
  • Articles are usually brief; between 1-7 pages
  • Contain advertisements
Frequency Frequent, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis Less frequent, on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis Frequent, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
Examples Time, US News and World Report, Modern Healthcare Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal

(Table from Rutgers University, Popular Literature vs. Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Literature: What's the Difference? . The rest of this webpage has very useful tips too.)

Other Publications - Newspapers, Agency Reports, Books?

Newspapers share many of the characteristics as popular magazine articles, but they can focused on:

  • local events and local community concerns, and/or
  • very recent events.

They're good resources for information on the people, events, and places that matter to a specific region. However, in locally-focused newspapers, coverage of national and international news often comes from a newswire (for example, AP/Associated Press), so you will find essentially the same story in more than one newspaper. Keep in mind that newspapers will reflect the biases of their communities, so if you are researching topics of international import, look for newspapers from other countries besides your own.

Government or Agency Reports focus on specific issuesand sometimes contain detailed research reports as well as information about policies and programs that aim to fix problems associated with the topic. Look for documents produced by agencies that have responsibility in this area (for example, U.S. Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency; United Nations Environment) or reports for advocacy organizations (for example, Union of Concerned Scientists). Keep in mind, though, that all of these groups have some kind of political agenda and bias; that's not a reason to reject their information, but it's wise to learn more about their advocacy or opinions so you can factor that information into your essay too.

What about Books? Not that we have anything against books, but often these contain more material than you would use for an essay, especially if your instructor has asked you to include multiple sources of information. (If you are further interested in the topic, definitely check out the books on Library shelves and read from our e-book collections!) There are two exceptions to this general rule, though; you may find useful material for your essays in:

  • Encyclopedias give you an overview of the topic, and put what you find in articles into context.
  • Individual Chapters in book anthologies (collections of chapters written by different authors, pulled together by an editor) are like articles - in fact, sometimes these are journal articles reprinted or re-worked for the anthology. While these are cited differently than journal or magazine articles, evaluate them with the same questions.

Why Identify Publication Type?

Why Identify Publication Type?

It is important to be aware of the different types of publication sources so that when you are conducting research you know what publication source will meet your information need. Also, in order to properly cite a source, you need to identify it’s publication type to determine the correct formatting. Determing publication type can be more challenging when viewing an article in electronic format since there is often less context


an tablet with a picture of a car on top of two magazines and a newspaper.