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Determine if an article is scholarly or popular

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles:

Your instructor may prefer that your research include articles from "scholarly" journals.  Many indexes (especially online periodical databases) make no distinction between popular magazines and professional sources.  How can students tell the difference?  Compare your source to the features in this chart:                                                   

Scholarly Journal  (Professional)

Popular (News or General Interest)

Main purpose is to report on original research and/or experiments, special topics for an academic audience

Main purpose is to inform and/or entertain readers from a wide range of the population, focusing on current events and popular topics

Illustrations tend to be charts, graphs or tables

Uses many photographs and colorful drawings

Usually published bi-monthly or quarterly by a professional organization or scholarly publisher (like a university press)

Published more frequently (daily, weekly or monthly) by a commercial enterprise

Includes few--if any--advertisements

Many full-page ads take up lots of space

Articles are usually lengthy and use specialized vocabulary

Articles are generally short, written in non-technical language

Authors are scholars or researchers

Authors may be staff members or free-lance writers; articles may be unsigned

Sources are cited in footnotes or bibliographies

Source of information is rarely cited

May have a serious, "sober" appearance, few bright colors

May have "slick" attractive cover and many glossy pictures

Articles are reviewed by a panel of "peers" prior to publication

Articles must meet publication deadline, little or no editing occurs

Examples:  Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Sex Research

Examples:  Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Time

Note: Many databases offer a check box to limit your results to “peer reviewed” or "refereed publications.”  Both of these options will get you scholarly publications only.  Most databases have a similar option box to check.


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