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How To...Identify Scholarly Information: Scholarly & Popular

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Characteristics of Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources
journals
Popular Sources
   newspaper
Author:
Experts, researchers
Author:
Reporters, journalists, professionals, company employees, or anyone
Written for:
Other experts and researchers
Written for:
Regular people
Publisher:
University, academic press, sometimes government
Publisher:
Newspaper, magazine,non-academic publisher or website
Vocabulary:
Advanced, technical, scholarly
Vocabulary:
General language
Purpose:
To report research findings, build on the academic literature
Purpose:
To inform, entertain, convince, market, or sell
Editing:
Reviewed by other experts (peer review)
Editing:
Basic editing
References:
Yes; look for footnotes or a list of sources at the end of the article.
References:
Not usually, though studies or other sources may be mentioned

Your Needs

There are many sources of information -- websites, books, magazines, journals, newspapers, friends -- and which sources you use depends on your needs.

For your college research needs, your sources need to be reliable and credible.  Credible and reliable sources can be more scholarly or more popular:

Sources that are more scholarly, such as academic journal articles, are considered more scholarly due to the expertise of the authors, advanced vocabulary and concepts, and the rigorous review and editing process.  

Sources that are more popular, such as magazine and newspaper articles, can also be reliable and appropriate (perhaps for a brief speech or short paper), though you may find more opinions there. They also do not discuss a topic in as much depth as a more scholarly source would. 

Video: Evaluating Sources for Credibility

This video, from North Carolina State University, discusses using some of the ideas on this page to evaluate the credibility of a source.