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Scholarly Research Tutorial: D. Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

Wondering where to start finding sources for a paper? Not sure where to go beyond Google? Start here for a quick tutorial in effective research methods for scholarly papers.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

The next step is selecting and finding resources for your college-level academic paper, but first we need to take a slight detour. 

Many of your professors will require that you use "scholarly" articlesThey may also call these articles, which come from journals, "academic" or "peer-reviewed."

What's a journal? It's a bit like a scholarly magazine. Both magazines and journals are periodicals, publications that come out on a regular basis.  A popular periodical (like Time or People) is usually called a magazine. A scholarly periodical (like Journal of Popular Culture or American Studies) is usually called a journal.

Right now, you're probably asking yourself:

  1. Why do I need to use scholarly sources?
  2. How can I tell if something is scholarly?
  3. Where can I find them?

Why do you need to use scholarly sources?  (Hint: it's not just because your professor told you to!) 

  • Scholarly sources are typically dense and provide a large amount of focused, detailed (as opposed to broad or for a general audience) information on a topic.
  • The sources are written for professionals by professionals about current, cutting-edge research. Not only are you going straight to the source, so to speak, but you're gaining access to important conversations within the discipline. If you're writing a research paper for a class in your major, using scholarly sources connects you to the ideas and controversies in your chosen field.
  • Thanks to the peer-review process, you can trust scholarly sources to be factually correct, high quality, and authoritative. Here's a diagram of how this works:

How Can I Tell if Something is Scholarly?

The best way to understand scholarly sources is to compare them with popular sources. This video, created by some librarians at Lincoln Memorial University, is a great introduction to this topic.  (Plus, it's a cartoon!) 

A comment on videos in this tutorial:

  • The videos in this tutorial are provided as an enhancement.
  • They are not required, but do serve to explain some of the concepts/skills in graphic form.
  • We have selected them carefully to be informative, entertaining, or thought provoking.

Let's recap from the video: here are the major differences between a popular and scholarly source:


Where Can I Find Them?

We'll find them by using some of the same tools we'll use to find other information packages! This is covered in the next part of the tutorial. Detour OVER.