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scholarly vs. popular sources

What does "Scholarly" mean?

     Students are often told to use "scholarly" sources in their research, but are unclear about what this means. And while the term "scholarly" is used differently in different circumstances, generally a "scholarly" source fits certain criteria.

How do I tell a "Scholarly" source from a "Popular" one?

References/Citations — Scholarly sources always cite their sources of information so that they can easily be checked or verified by others. Different disciplines may use different systems (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.), but sources will always be cited in some manner. For more information on citation styles, see the Citation Styles area of this website.

Author/Authorship — The author of a scholarly work is nearly always a specialist in the discipline or subject area of that work. Popular works are more often written by generalists. And while popular works are often anonymous, scholarly works almost never are.

Format — Scholarly articles are generally in journals (rather than newspapers, glossy magazines, newsletters or "zines") and are usually sponsored by an academic association or group. They tend to focus less on visual appeal and advertising than do popular magazines.

Editorial Policy — Scholarly works are most often published in journals or other media that are peer-reviewed. For an over-view of the peer-review process, see the Publishing Glossary on this site.

Audience/Language — Scholarly works are written for a particular audience (usually the author's peers in a particular discipline), and use language that may include specialized terminology or concepts that are appropriate only for that audience. Popular works are written for a general audience, and rarely include field or discipline specific terminology. As such, they are generally not available through a typical newsstand.


Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources

Slavic Review
Journal of Modern History
Eurasian Geography & Economics
Europe-Asia Studies


San Francisco Chronicle
Rolling Stone
The Atlantic


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