Skip to Main Content

Journalism Subject Guide

Subject Guide for Journalism Department.

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

There are a wide variety of sources available to you for your research, both through the Library and through the open web. These sources include books, newspapers, websites, films, magazines, journals, government documents, and many more. Conducting research at the college level often requires the use of authoritative, scholarly sources. An example of a scholarly source you'll use frequently throughout your studies is a scholarly, peer reviewed journal article.

A scholarly article differs greatly from a popular magazine article, and knowing how they differ will help you more easily differentiate between the two. The following chart compares scholarly journals to popular magazines and newspapers:

AUTHORS Writers who are not experts in the subject such as journalists or staff writers; names and credentials often not included Professors, researchers, or experts in a field; name, credentials, and institutional affiliation included
CONTENT Current events, popular culture, opinion pieces, fiction, etc. Original research or original interpretation of previous research within a specific discipline
AUDIENCE General public Scholars, researchers, students
LANGUAGE Common language that most readers will understand Technical language and jargon of the discipline often requiring previous knowledge
CITATIONS No – sources are rarely listed, And the articles will not have bibliographies  Yes – sources are cited throughout the articles, which include bibliographies at the end
PEER REVIEWED No Usually – Articles are reviewed by other experts in the field. Publication is dependent upon accuracy authority, and whether the piece is deemed to expand the knowledge of a discipline
LENGTH A few hundred words to a few pages Articles are often around 10-30 pages
LAYOUT Highly informal, and structure varies from publication to publication Highly structured – articles usually include introduction, methodology, literature review, results, conclusion, and bibliography sections

If you have access to the print versions of journals and magazines, you can see differences in their covers. Scholarly journals have plain covers, whereas popular magazines have flashy photographs and glossy covers:

Popular Magazine Covers:

magazine covers with stylized photographs and celebrities featured on the front (including GQ, Smithsonian, New York Magazine, and Time Magazine)

Scholarly Journal Covers:

scholarly journal covers with muted, non-flashy images or graphics (including U.S. Catholic Historian, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Journal of Transformative Education)