Scholarly or popular sources

"Scholarly" or "popular" are terms used to describe a source's content, purpose, audience, appearance, citations and more. Popular sources are useful for getting ideas for a topic or for background and anecdotal information.

Typically, however, you should support your arguments by citing scholarly articles, which contain original research written by experts and do not contain glossy pages or advertisements. Ask your instructor if you're unsure about citing a source.

Many article databases allow you to limit your results to scholarly sources.

Scholarly sources:

  • original research published in journals
  • written by experts in the field
  • are usually peer-reviewed (evaluated by other experts in the same field)
  • include citations
  • usually are longer, about 10-30 pages

Popular sources:

  • general interest stories which may refer to research but do not contain original research
  • written by the general public
  • are not peer-reviewed
  • rarely include citations
  • tend to be shorter, about 200 words to a few pages

Take the Scholarly vs. Popular Sources tutorial

Watch the Scholarly vs. Popular Sources video