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Biomedical Engineering: Scholarly vs Popular Resources

This guide provides an overview of key resources available for Biomedical Engineering, and some strategies to effectively find high quality information.

What's the difference?


Scholarly sources (also referred to as academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed sources) are written for and by academics with systems in place to ensure the quality and accuracy of information. Scholarly sources include books from academic publishers, scholarly journals, and reports from research institutes.

Popular sources are often not as reliable, and often condense and summarise the information found in scholarly. They are usually written for a general audience as they are produced by non-specialist authors. This is not to say the information cannot be used, but that it should be used to complement the information gathered from scholarly sources, and should not be the sole source of information.

Characteristics of scholarly vs popular resources


The table below shows the characteristics associated with scholarly or popular sources. Both scholarly and popular sources can be appropriate for your research purposes, depending on your research question, but research assignments will often require you to consult primarily with scholarly materials.  


Scholarly  Popular
Examples Scholarly journals, books from academic or university presses which are specific and in depth Magazines, websites, newspapers, books from popular publishers like Penguin and Random House
Purpose Communicating research findings; education  Entertainment; news
Authors Scholars with subject expertise Generalists, including bloggers and journalists; not always attributed
Audience Scholars, researchers, students General readers
Language Dense, includes academic jargon Easier to read, defines specialized terms
Citations Sources cited No formal citations
Before publication Evaluated by peers (other scholars) Edited by in-house editors or not edited at all
Design Mostly text, with some tables and charts; very little photography; no advertising  Glossy images, attractive design; photo illustrations and advertising are more common

Different types of scholarly resources


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Often give an overview of a large or complex topic and contain the fundamental theories and ideas of practice.

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Journal Articles

Focus on a particular subject and examine a specific aspect of an issue or idea. Scholarly journal article are mostly peer-reviewed before publication and can be a great source of current research and leading information in a field.

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Conference Papers

Present the latest research and advancements in a particular field and are typically published in collections called "proceedings". 

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Technical Reports

Describe the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem. 

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Are official publications used in industry and trade to describe specifications and procedures. Standards provide rules and recommendations for quality, safety, performance and construction, codes of practice, methods of testing, symbols and terminology.