What is the difference between popular and scholarly sources?
There are a few key differences between popular and scholarly sources. One of the biggest reasons for the distinction is that your academic writing will most likely need scholarly work to support your thesis. Scholarly sources generally support their claims with research and other works that have been peer-reviewed. The peer review process allows for other experts on a particular topic to assess the claims of an article and, in many cases, ask for the author to revise the writing to the standards of their respective field.
This table refers to both print and online resources. You will probably access scholarly journal articles via your library’s online database rather than in print form.
|Bibliographies or references are included
|Bibliographies or references are generally not included
|Authors are experts in their fields, often educators
|Authors are usually journalists or amateurs
|Articles go through the peer review process (meaning an article is reviewed by others in the author’s field before it is published)
|Articles do not go through peer review
|Articles are signed by the authors and include information about the author’s credentials
|Articles are sometimes unsigned (especially on the web)
|Audience is the scholarly reader, such as professors, researchers, or students
|Audience is the general population
|Standardized formats are usually followed like APA, MLA, etc.
|Various formats which are often unstructured
|Written in the jargon of the field
|Written for anyone to understand
|Any illustrations support the text, such as maps, tables, photographs
|Often profusely illustrated for marketing appeal
|Includes articles in professional journals in both print and online formats
|Includes articles in popular magazines, in newspapers, and on the internet
* Table adapted from: Whitmore, Marilyn P. Empowering Students; Hands-on Library Instruction Activities. Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Publications, 1996. 6. Print.