Evaluating Sources

Popular or Scholarly – What is the Difference?

  • The basic differences between popular and scholarly articles arise from the audience for which the periodical is written.
Criteria Popular Magazines Scholarly Journals
AUDIENCE general public scholars, students, professionals
APPEARANCE lots of color, advertising, illustrations, short articles mostly text, black & white, graphs & charts, long articles with bibliographies & footnotes
CONTENT feature articles on timely topics; written for a
general audience in a language that is easy to understand
researched and footnoted articles; written for a specialized audience
in a vocabulary that is not easily understood by the average reader
AUTHOR(ITY) written by staff & freelance writers; checked by editors authored by researchers, academics, specialists; peer-reviewed
EXAMPLES Time; Business Week; People The Journal of American History; Signs

How To Find Scholarly Articles

  • Use an index or online database to locate several articles on a topic.
  • STARTING POINTS: EBSCOHost’s Academic Search Complete is a general periodical databases, will provide some full-text scholarly articles as well as citations to others that are not full-text. An option for limiting the search to scholarly/peer-reviewed articles is available in each database.
  • FOLLOW UP with a specialized database that covers the topic area. Most specialized databases contain citations and occasionally full-text articles that are primarily from scholarly publications. For assistance with selecting an appropriate specialized database, consult a librarian at the Reference Desk.