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Advanced Research: Popular vs Scholarly Sources

This guide is for MSJC students and advanced researchers and features topics such as strategic browsing, finding data and research tips to make your research process more efficient.

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Your instructor said that you cannot use the Internet to find sources for your paper.  Instead, you have to use "Scholarly Journals" and other academic resources.  So what does that mean?

Scholarly or Academic sources:

Their purpose is to share information within the subject field and they are based on original research and experimentation. They are suitable for academics, and are supported by a system of learning and study.  They are less widely circulated than popular sources and may be understandable only to those who work or study in a particular field. In addition, scholarly sources are evaluated either through peer review or the referee process.

  • Peer-Reviewed: When an article is Peer-Reviewed, the editors of the journal wishing to publish the item send it to scholars in the relevant field; e.g., an article about Biology would go to other biologists.  These scholars provide feedback about the article's relevance to scholarship in their field, the quality of research and presentation of findings, and more.  This ensures that the articles that wind up in academic journals have scholastic merit and contribute to the overall research in the field.

  • Refereed: A Refereed Article is also referred to other scholars in the field.  However, in this instance, the reviews are blind.  In other words, the academic peers conducting the review do not know the name of the work's author.  In addition, it is often the case that the reviewers' names are not made known to the author.  This ensures that the work is judged solely on its own merit rather than the author's reputation.  In addition, the manuscript must be reviewed by at least two other people.

Popular sources:

  • general interest stories which may refer to research but do not contain original research
  • written for the general public by staff writers and journalists
  • are not peer-reviewed
  • rarely include citations
  • tend to be shorter, about 200 words to a few pages

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journal images

  • Focused on a particular field of study
  • Based on original research or experimentation
  • Written by scholars or experts in a particular field
  • Read by professionals, students or educators in the subject area
  • Use scholarly, technical, research-oriented language
  • Include references, bibliographies or footnotes
  • Contain little or no advertising

Popular Magazines

Popular magazine images

  • General interest stories or entertainment information
  • Based on fact-finding and/or opinion
  • Written by staff writers or journalists
  • Read by the general public
  • Easy to understand language
  • Usually do not include references
  • Contain lots of colorful advertising