Evaluating Information & Sources
What are "popular" and scholarly sources?
If you are not familiar with scholarly publications, it can be difficult to tell the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals. There are no definitive rules for distinguishing between the two, but here are some guidelines:
Scholarly (e.g., academic journals):
- Are written by professionals within an academic field or discipline.
- Contain research projects, methodology, and theory.
- Have few, if any, advertisements.
- Use college-level or specialized vocabulary of the discipline.
- Include articles with extensive bibliographies, footnotes, or other documentation.
- Contain graphics that are often black & white and consist of tables, charts, and diagrams.
- Are peer-reviewed or refereed.
Popular (e.g., magazines, newspapers):
- Are written by journalists.
- Contain general news articles written to inform, update, or introduce a new issue.
- Have many full-color, full-page advertisements.
- Use a general, non-technical vocabulary.
- Include articles with little or no documentation.
- Contain graphics that are often full-color pictures and illustrations.
Databases that contain both scholarly and popular sources usually allow you to restrict your search to scholarly sources only. Look for an option to display only scholarly, academic, or peer-reviewed sources.