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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

So what is scholarly...?

Your lecturers will ask you to use academic (scholarly) sources in your assignments. But what do they mean by "scholarly"? How can you tell if a publication is scholarly or not? 

Is it peer-reviewed?

You may be asked to use peer-reviewed journals to find information for your assignment. So what is peer-review?

Peerreviewed title=

Popular vs. scholarly




Inform / entertain / general audience


Present / report original research

Usually colourful and attractive; lots of illustrations and photographs


Contains fewer photographs.  May have technical charts and graphs

Short articles including generalised overview of topics

Useful as introductory background reading



Longer articles covering a specific topic in depth.

Usually, includes abstract (summary) of the article.

Non-technical. Can include definitions of terms presumed unfamiliar to the lector


Technical language specific to the field covered by the article (jargon)

Journalists with no specialist knowledge of the subject. Credentials are rarely given


Authors' credentials as an expert are explicitly presented, usually on the first page

Background reading and interviews are the main research


Presents the results of original research

Rarely cites sources


Articles are rigorously referenced with all sources cited.  Usually contains footnotes and bibliography.

Articles are approved for publication by the editor

Peer Review

Articles approved for publication after review by the author's scholarly peers 

Adapted from James Cook University. (2011, November 3).Evaluating Sources.Retrieved November 3,2011, from JCU Library Guide:


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