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Evaluating Sources: Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly articles

Scholarly articles are peer-reviewed or refereed articles that are published in academic journals. Academic journals are also referred to as scholarly journals or peer-reviewed journals. 

What is Peer Review?

"Peer review has been defined as a process of subjecting an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. It functions to encourage authors to meet the accepted high standards of their discipline and to control the dissemination of research data to ensure that unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations or personal views are not published without prior expert review." 

Source: Keel, J., Sadeghieh, T., & Adeli, K. (2014). Peer review in scientific publications: Benefits, critiques, and a survival guide. IEJIFCC, 25(3), 227-243


It isn't always easy to tell if an article has been peer-reviewed. Some databases will label results as scholarly or academic or peer-reviewed. Some publishers will indicate the journal is peer-reviewed on their websites.

Here are some ways to identify if the article is scholarly:


  • Scholarly articles are written by experts or researchers
  • Look for the authors' names, their academic credentials, and institution affiliation


  • Scholarly articles will often use highly specialized or technical language.


  • Scholarly articles are written for professionals in a particular field of study and not for the general public.


  • Scholarly articles communicate research results. They are often text-heavy but may include charts, graphs, or diagrams.

Bibliography included

  • Scholarly articles will always include the references that are cited or a bibliography.

Popular articles

Popular articles refer primarily to those published in magazines or newspapers. 

Here are some ways to identify if the article is a popular source:


  • Popular articles are written by journalists or professional writers


  • Popular articles will use language that is easily understood by the average reader.


  • Popular articles are written for the general public.

Visual appearance

  • Popular articles may include photos and advertisements. 

Bibliography included

  • Scholarly articles will rarely include full references of sources cited 

Additional resources