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What is the difference between scholarly and popular publications?

Last Updated: Oct 28, 2011  |  16052 Views

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Scholarly books, articles, and essays are usually the best kinds of sources to use for a college research paper. Here are some of the major differences between scholarly and popular sources:

Scholarly Publications: Popular Publications:
  • Are written by scholars in a particular field
  • Have bibliographies and/or cite sources
  • Present articles based on research by authorities in a field (not personal opinions)
  • Use a specialized vocabulary
  • Are often "peer reviewed" or approved by a group of experts
  • Are targeted toward a general audience
  • Often have a great deal of advertising
  • Rarely include references to other works
  • Are written by journalists and staff writers
  • May include opinions on current issues
Scholarly Sources: Article Titles Popular Sources: Article Titles
  • Tend to be more specific
  • May be longer than magazine article titles
  • Describe the subject being discussed
  • Examples:
    • Sustainable Transport for the Developing World: The Social and Environmental Nexus
    • Homicide and Suicide Rates Associated With Implementation of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
  • Try to catch the reader's attention
  • Are often short and witty
  • May sound like a newspaper headline
  • Examples:
    • Will Bush Turn Green?
    • Taking Aim at the Brady Law
    • Will Education Be Bushwhacked?

Scholarly publications often have titles that include words like: journal, quarterly, studies, review, bulletin, or society.

The title isn't always a dead giveaway, though. Please see What are peer reviewed journal articles and how would I find them? for some additional tips.

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