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ENC 1102 (Taylor)

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

While many of our library databases allow you to filter your search results to scholarly articles, it is still helpful to know the differences between popular and scholarly sources to ensure that you are fulfilling your assignment requirements. This chart summarizes some of the main distinctions between the two types of sources. 

Characteristics Popular Source Scholarly Source
Written by  staff writers, reporters, or freelance journalists researchers, experts in a particular field
Audience general public academics, someone familiar with the field
Language easy to understand and nontechnical discipline-specific, often contains jargon 
Length & scope short, provides a broad overview of a topic lengthy, provides in-depth coverage and analysis of a topic
Citation & research

rarely cites sources and often reports on research conducted by others

cites sources and provides extensive references, often presents original research

Sponsored by corporate or nonprofit organizations universities and other educational institutions as well as professional, nonprofit associations

Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Journals

One specific type of scholarly source that you are often asked to use for research projects is a peer-reviewed journal. In addition to being written by a scholar, peer reviewed journal articles are also reviewed by other scholars in a particular field (i.e. one's peers) before they are published. Peer review is an extra level of quality control and adds to the credibility of the source. Watch this video to find about more about peer review and how to identify a peer-reviewed journal article.