1.2 Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

In academic assignments and writing, we need to use scholarly sources, so it is important to know the difference between scholarly and popular sources.

Which sources are scholarly and which are popular? Click on the images below to learn more


Examples of popular and scholarly resources:

Popular: Science magazine, newspaper, science blog, non-fiction book

Scholarly: Academic journal, textbook, dictionary


What’s the difference between a scholarly and a popular source?

Scholarly sources — Scholarly sources present original research (in an article or thesis) or compile research (in a textbook, dictionary or encyclopedia). They are written by researchers or scholars and are designed for an academic audience. Scholarly resources use specialized, scientific vocabulary. Scholarly resources contain references to back up information and they are considered to be reliable resources.

Popular sources — Popular sources present information with the intent of informing or entertaining. Popular sources do not contain original research but can summarize or report on original research. They are written by non-experts for a wide audience. Popular sources use accessibly language. Popular sources to not usually contain references and they are not considered to be a reliable academic source.


This chart covers the characteristics of popular and scholarly sources

 Content Contains original research data Covers popular interest topics
 Authors Expert scholars with their credentials listed Not experts, often journalists or writers
 Audience Scholars, researchers General public
 Purpose To share research findings and expand knowledge
To inform or entertain
 Style Straight forward design with complex language Flashy, eye catching design with accessible language
 References     Contains references No references
 Peer-review Articles are peer-reviewed Articles are not peer-reviewed


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Library Skills for 2nd Year Biological Sciences Copyright © 2020 by Lauren Stieglitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book