Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

What is it about a book, article or other information source that makes it scholarly?

Scholarly sources are:

  • written by scholars for other scholars,
  • comprised of detailed, advanced, sophisticated information about a topic, based on extensive research,
  • closer to the source, not translated or interpreted for you by a non-expert, and
  • peer reviewed – an article being considered for publication is inspected by two or more anonymous subject area experts who check its facts, methodology and reasoning as well as the quality of its writing. Scholarly books (also called monographs) are reviewed by editors who are often subject experts. These processes constitute a set of checks and balances to prevent errors, nonsense and lies from being passed off as good information.

Learn how to recognize the identifying features of scholarly articles at: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

You will still need to use nonscholarly sources, at times. Just because they’re nonscholarly doesn’t necessarily mean their information is unreliable.

Some examples of useful, nonscholarly resources are:

  • articles and editorials from newspapers and news magazines (e.g., New York TimesWall Street JournalTime)
  • articles from technical, trade or professional journals (e.g., Pro Sound, National Fire Protection Association Journal)
  • articles from reputable magazines that shed light on contemporary awareness and views of an issue (e.g., National Geographic, Science News)
  • any nonscholarly item that is the subject of your research (e.g., you could be doing research on gender stereotypes in fashion magazines or attitudes about wealth in New York Times bestsellers)

This chart will help you distinguish between the features of scholarly and popular sources as well as trade journals.

Watch this video tutorial on different kinds of popular and scholarly periodicals (journals, magazines, etc.)

a brief course in information literacy