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BIOL 2420 Martin

Scholarly vs Popular Sources


What is a "scholarly" source? 

Scholarly sources are written by experts on a topic and usually report original research results (like an experiment they conducted) or analyze other scholars' research. Their purpose may be to educate, inform, or persuade an informed, academic audience. 

For this assignment, scholarly sources are:  
  • Academic journal articles (aka scholarly journals, peer-reviewed journals, scientific journals)

What's an academic journal article? Take a look at this illustrated guide: 


What is a "popular" source? 

Popular sources are not written by experts on the topic: they may be professional journalists or writers, but not necessarily experts. Their purpose is to entertain, inform, or persuade an uninformed, general audience.  

For this assignment, popular sources are:
  • Newspaper articles
  • Magazine articles  


This chart outlines some of the major differences between scholarly and popular information sources:

Chart comparing Popular and Scholarly sources


Here's an example of two articles on the same topic: the college admissions scandal in summer 2019. 

You can find both articles in our Academic Search Complete database, but one is popular and one is scholarly. Can you tell which one is which by the covers of their publications?

People magazine cover          Journal of College Admission cover


If you thought the People magazine article is the popular source and the Journal of College Admission is the scholarly source, you're right!