Popular or Scholarly?

Popular Sources

One important way to distinguish types of sources is by their intended audience. We often make a distinction between popular sources that are intended for a general audience, and scholarly sources that are intended for experts and researchers in the academic or professional community.

You may already know about the difference between popular magazines and scholarly journals. Magazines are intended for a general audience, are written in non-scholarly language, and are generally written by professional journalists. Journals, on the other hand, are intended for scholarly researchers, are written in specialized or scholarly language, and are written by scholars in an academic or professional field.

This same distinction can be made with other sources of information, as well. Books and websites that are intended for a scholarly audience are more appropriate for academic research than those intended for a popular audience. If you are able to recognize the differences between a popular and scholarly source, then you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of information you need.

Examples of Popular Sources

  • National Geographic (magazine)
  • 10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet) (book)
  • http://www.gizmodo.com (website)

Examples of Scholarly Sources

  • The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (journal)
  • Virtue of Necessity: Inconclusiveness and Narrative Form in Chaucer’s Poetry (book)
  • http://ncar.ucar.edu/ - The National Center of Atmospheric Research (website)