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.
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.
|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|