Skip to Main Content

Research 101: Scholarly or Popular?

A guide to help you develop good research skills!

Is That Source Scholarly or Popular?

scholarly v popular

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Check out this resource from North Carolina State University for an explanation of the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article.

Find Peer Reviewed or Scholarly Articles

Hints to finding peer reviewed or scholarly articles in library databases.

  • Use a database that indexes peer-reviewed journals, such as:
  • On the Search screen in any database, click the option (if offered) to limit results to "Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Journals."

Scholarly Journals or Popular Magazines?

Learn the Difference Between the Two

 Do you know the difference between scholarly sources of information (sometimes referred to as academic journals or peer-reviewed journals) and popular sources (sometimes referred to as magazines)? As you choose sources for your research, it is important to distinguish between the two. Below is a chart that should help you make that distinction and guide the research process. Be sure to check with your professor if you have questions about the appropriateness of a source.


JOURNAL ARTICLES                               POPULAR MAGAZINES


Longer articles, providing in-depth analysis of topics

Shorter articles, providing broader overviews of topics


Author usually an expert or specialist
in the field; name and credentials always provided

Author usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided



Written in the jargon of the field for scholarly readers, professors, researchers or students

Written in non-technical language for anyone to understand



Articles usually include: abstract, literature review, methodology,
results, conclusion, bibliography

Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure

 Special Features

Illustrations that support the text, like tables of statistics, graphs,
maps, or photographs

Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes


Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (refereed or peer reviewed)

Articles are not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff 


A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes always provided to
document research

A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text