Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Murphy Library Research & Information Seeking Tools: Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

Comparison of Popular and Scholarly Resources

What is it? Characteristics Examples
Scholarly sources are written for readers who are specialists in their academic or professional fields.
  • Are written by authors with academic credentials related to your topic
  • Discuss and research topics at length
  • Use very technical language
  • Aim to educate specialists
  • Cite all sources supporting the research
Articles in journals, books, research databases, or on professional webpages.
Popular sources are written for general readers.
  • Are often written by journalists
  • Tend to be short discussions
  • Use common language
  • Aim to educate and/or entertain the general public
  • Often cite no sources or give sources that are brief and incomplete
Articles in newspapers, magazines, newswires, popular culture databases, and news-related webpages.


Ford-Brown, L. A., (2012) Guide to Public Speaking. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Popular vs. Scholarly Information

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals Movie
(3 minute video written by Eli Moody, Peabody Library, Vanderbilt University)

Scholarly Sources vs Popular Sources Movie
(3 minute by Joshua Vossler- Script writer, Narrator, and Hand John Watts- Script writer, Puppet PhD, and Hand Tim Hodge- Editor and Hand from Kimbel Library)

Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals 
Advice from Cornell University Library.

Scholarly Journals v. Popular Magazines Articles
More advice from the University of Texas at San Antonia Library

Scholarly versus Popular Articles  Movie
A humourous video explaining the difference between popular and scholarly articles, similar to the "I'm a Mac; I'm a PC". Created at the Faculty Summer Institute 2007 at the University of Illinois. Produced by the Digital Literacy Unit at the University of Ilinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Peer Review Process