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Scholarly vs Popular

Is it Scholarly or Popular?

You may be asked to use scholarly articles for your research paper. Here are some hints to help you recognize if an article is scholarly or not.

  • The terms peer reviewed and refereed mean that experts have evaluated the article. Peer reviewed, refereed articles are scholarly.
  • Articles that are not scholarly are considered popular. There are different types of popular publications (see chart below).
  • Popular materials can be good sources, but they are not considered scholarly.

If you aren't sure whether an article is scholarly or not, try using Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory (see instructions below chart).

    General Interest Trade / Professional Sensational
LENGTH Long; 8 pages or more Short; 6 pages or less Short; 6 pages or less Short
CONTENT Original research or experimentation.
title, abstract, literature review, methodology, discussion, conclusion, bibliography
Broad focus topics:culture, politics, etc. News, trends, developments and products for industry or profession Celebrity gossip, unusual news stories that may lack credibility
Educated audience but non-specialists Professionals and experts in the field Gullible audience, appeal to superstitions and prejudice
AUTHOR Specialists and researchers in a subject area Staff or freelance writers who may have subject expertise Professionals in the field, and/or staff writers Often unidentified
VOCABULARY Technical vocabulary and specialized jargon Average level ranging from formal to conversational Some specialized vocabulary but fairly readable Elementary and inflammatory, popular language
Significant references
Not peer reviewed
Minimal references
Not peer reviewed
Minimal references
Not peer reviewed
Entirely unsubstantiated
ADVERTISEMENTS Few or none Moderate Moderate (tend to be trade related) Many
APPEARANCE Plain, black/white graphics, charts and figures Glossy w/ color with photographs and illustrations Glossy w/ color with photographs and illustrations Newspaper format, color with many photographs
EXAMPLES The Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of Sport and Social Issue

The Atlantic Monthly

Sports Illustrated



Advertising Age

American Teacher

Publishers Weekly

Supermarket News

National Examiner


Weekly World News

This chart has been adapted from UC Santa Cruz's web page "Distinguish Between Popular and Scholarly Periodicals".

Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory lists many periodical titles (e.g. journals and magazines) and indicates if they are refereed or peer-reviewed with the following symbol. To determine if the periodical you want to use is scholarly or not, follow these steps.