Question and Answer

How do I tell the difference between popular and scholarly sources?

Popular sources (e.g. magazines or newspapers)

  • are often written by journalists or professional writers for the average reader.
  • rarely give full citations for sources.
  • are written for the general public.
  • tend to be shorter.

Scholarly sources (e.g. journals)

  • are written by and for faculty, researchers and other experts in a field  (like chemists, historians, doctors, or artists).
  • use scholarly or technical language.
  • tend to consist of longer articles about research.
  • include full citations for sources.
  • are reviewed by multiple specialists/experts in the field of study before being accepted

Note: Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals.

Learn More

Try our interactive tutorial: Popular vs Scholarly Sources to learn more about these differences.

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