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ARTS 1113 - Nathaniel (Douglasville) - Spring 2018: Choosing Sources

Popular vs. Scholarly

Thanks to the University of Delaware Library for the infographic!

Scholarly Articles


Journals, magazines, and newspapers can be divided into four basic categories (ranked here from most reliable to least reliable):

1. Scholarly

2. General Interest / Substantive News

3. Popular

4. Sensational

Think about it - if you were preparing a presentation on political parties, would you trust The Journal of Political Science or the local supermarket tabloid with aliens from Mars on the cover? That's the difference between scholarly and sensational!

SCHOLARLY journals require articles to be reviewed by other experts or scholars in the same field (thus "peer reviewed") who must agree that the article in question meets the standards of that profession.  This ensures that the content of the article is as valid and reliable as possible.

So how do you tell if a journal is scholarly? 

  • Look for an abstract.
  • Look for complete citations (Bibliography or Works Cited list.)
  • Check to see if the author has a degree in the subject.
  • Check the "Peer Reviewed" box in GALILEO! Don't forget the library databases allow you to modify your searches to include only those materials that are peer reviewed!

(More information on the four basic categories can be found here!)

Scholarly Books


Books can be popular, scholarly, general interest, or sensational too.  Books can be tricky, though, because they don't always make it clear if they're scholarly or not.

So think "APPLE".  

picture of an apple






Author - is the author an expert in his/her field?

Purpose - what kind of information is the book trying to convey?

Publisher - who made the book available?

Language - how sophisticated is the language used in the text?

Evidence - what sources does the author use to draw conclusions?

(This is just a brief list - for more on distinguishing a popular book from a scholarly book, go HERE!)

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