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ENGL 1301 Toulmin Argument: Scholarly vs popular sources

This page describes what it means for sources to be "scholarly" or "popular" and how to tell the difference.

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)
  • Book or book chapters written by experts 
  • Reference articles from specialized reference works (like encyclopedias in Credo Reference)
 
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:

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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?

          

 

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

Peer Review

Scholarly journals are sometimes referred to as Peer Reviewed journals, but not always. Peer Review is a process- when an author submits their research, a group of experts in that subject evaluate the resources used, quality of writing, and quality of the new idea/research to see if it is of an acceptable standard. It's a bit like the Olympic Judges- they are often experts in their event and know how to judge a performance's worth. Peer reviewed journal articles are the Olympians- there's a lot of people who try out for them, but only a select few stellar athletes make it to the Olympics to compete.  It's the same in academia- experts go over the authors work and look for flaws, and determine who needs to be rejected, who needs to revise, and who is ready for publication. If you see peer reviewed- it indicates the quality of the journal article is highly rated by scholars. If you see blind peer review, it means that the judges have no idea who wrote the article, and do not know any information about the author. 

For more about Peer Review, See: 

 

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