How do you tell the difference between a scholarly article and a popular article?
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How do you tell the difference between a scholarly article and a popular article? Your professor says that you have to have scholarly journal articles for your research project. Let’s look at what scholarly journals are and what popular magazines are ~and then the differences between the two!.

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How do you tell the difference between a scholarly article and a popular article?Your professor says that you have to have scholarly journal articles for your research project.

Let’s look at what scholarly journals are and what popular magazines are

~and then the differences between the two!


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Scholarly Journals and a popular article?

  • Definitions

    Journal articles that are written by experts or authorities in a professional or academic field to report their research or scholarly opinion of a topic.  

    Often called peer reviewed or refereed because referees in the subject area review and evaluate the article before accepting it for publication.

  • When to use an article from a scholarly journal?

    -For doing most college research

    - For finding out what has been researched and studied on your topic


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Magazines and a popular article?

  • Definition:

    A magazine is a periodical written for the general public to inform and entertain. This is what you buy in the grocery store, drug store, etc.

    Often referred to as popular magazines.

  • When to use an article from a popular magazine:

    • for a general understanding of a topic

    • for information on popular culture and hot topics

    • for general articles on topics written for the general

      public for information or entertainment


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Scholarly articles vs. Popular articles and a popular article?~ the differences:

  • Authors:

    Scholarly – experts or authorities in professional or academic fields

    Popular – staff or freelance writers, often unsigned

  • Purpose:

    Scholarly – to report original research and research findings

    Popular – to entertain or inform in a general way; not original research


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Scholarly articles vs. Popular articles and a popular article?~ the differences

  • Intended Audience:

    Scholarly – scholars, researchers, practitioners in an academic or professional field

    Popular – general audience

  • Language:

    Scholarly – technical jargon of the subject area

    Popular – simple language that anyone could read


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Scholarly articles vs. Popular articles and a popular article? ~ the differences:

  • Documentation of sources used:

    Scholarly – includes references and bibliography of resources used

    Popular – Does not give references to where information was obtained but may mention research or researcher’s findings

  • Editing:

    Scholarly – goes through a peer review process before accepted for publication and often referred to as peer reviewed or refereed.

    Popular – edited by magazine editors for readability and suitability for the magazine’s purpose


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Scholarly articles vs. Popular articles and a popular article?~ the differences

  • Illustrations:

    Scholarly – sparsely illustrated with charts, diagrams or appropriate photographs related to the research and has advertisements that appeal to professionals in the field

    Popular – heavily illustrated with glossy covers and pictures and contains a lot of advertisements for the general public

    So, how can you tell whether an article is scholarly or popular in a database?


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Most databases will give you the option of limiting your search to: Peer reviewed

For example, in InfoTrac OneFile this is how you limit to peer reviewed articles:


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Results of the PsycINFO search: database:

Any questions? Ask a Librarian!