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Raymond H. Center Library: Finding Scholarly Sources

Scholarly vs Popular Sources- Tips

Evaluating Resources
When searching for materials to use for your research paper, it is important to be very selective about what you choose. Look for resources that are scholarly and are from a reliable source. While you may use Wikipedia to find basic information about your topic, be sure not to use it for your citations. Instead, look at the list of references in the Wikipedia entry and try to find a reliable source of information that backs up what you found in Wikipedia. Google may also be used to find a website that will give you basic information about your research topic, but be careful about what sites you choose.
See the section below on Evaluating Websites. You may also use Google Scholar to help you find journal articles and see if they are available via the library. More importantly, use scholarly books and journal articles that are available via the library website.

Criteria for Evaluating Websites- Cornell University Library

Understanding Scholarly Articles

Presented by the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, this tool identifies and describes each element that comprises
a scholarly research article. Anatomy of a Scholarly Article



Examples of Scholarly and Popular

Scholarly Sources
Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary defines scholarly as:
1) concerned with or relating to formal study or research
2) having the characteristics of a scholar (Source)

What to look for:

  • Scholarly journal articles often have an abstract, a descriptive summary of the article contents, before the main text of the article.
  • Scholarly journals generally have a sober, serious look. They often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
  • Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. These bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.
  • Articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The affiliations of the authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article--universities, research institutions, think tanks, and the like.
  • The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some technical background on the part of the reader.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization.
    Note: Little or no advertisements, very few pictures, unless related to a particular article.


Popular Sources
Popular means fit for, or reflecting the taste and intelligence of, the people at large.
What to look for:

  • Popular periodicals come in many formats, although often slick and attractive in appearance with lots of color graphics (photographs, drawings, etc.).
  • These publications do not cite sources in a bibliography. Information published in popular periodicals is often second or third hand and the original source is rarely mentioned.
  • Articles are usually very short and written in simple language.
  • The main purpose of popular periodicals is to entertain the reader, to sell products, or to promote a viewpoint.
    Note: Many advertisements and pictures.
    Source: Cornell University Libraries: Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals