Knowing more about your source can help you evaluate it. Is it a popular source with background information meant for the general public? Or is it a scholarly source that was written by an expert on the subject and published by a peer-reviewed journal?
The following explains some characteristics of popular and scholarly sources. At the end of each section, we link to specific examples of each. You can also click the submenu under this tab to see more examples.
Scholarly sources can be found in library databases and sometimes on the open internet. Many scholarly sources on the open internet are behind a paywall, which restricts access to the content unless you have a subscription or want to pay a fee for individual content.
Content: Original research or literature review of other research; includes an abstract with a summary of the article
Appearance: Plain, no ads, includes charts and graph to support research findings
Authors: Experts in the field
Audience: Other academics or researchers in a specific discipline
Purpose: To share research and findings; discuss issues and practices in the field
Language: Uses terminology specific to the discipline
Sources: Usually includes a bibliography at the end
Length: Can be quite long, sometimes 20 pages or more.
Accountability: Peer-reviewed by other experts in the field.
Examples of Scholarly Sources:
Popular sources comprise most of what people read on a regular basis, If your instructor allows you to use popular sources for your assignments, remember to evaluate them carefully using the SIFT Method before citing them.
Popular sources can be found in library databases as well as the open internet. Sometimes popular sources on the open internet are behind a paywall and require a paid subscription to the source to view the full text of an article. This is common with newspapers. In some cases, a source will allow you to view a certain number of articles for free before they require a paid subscription.
Content: Broad topics
Appearance: Lots of ads, varying fonts and text sizes, colorful
Authors: Journalists, general writers, topic enthusiasts, sometimes not named at all
Audience: General public, members of a specific profession
Purpose: Entertainment, current events or trends in a field, popular culture, "how-to"
Language: Relaxed, basic vocabulary to appeal to a wide audience
Sources: Sometimes not named; may provide links; usually does not include a bibliography at the end
Length: Can vary, but usually short
Accountability: May be reviewed by an editor (news sites), but not always (personal blogs or websites); commercial publishers
Examples of Popular Sources