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.SOURCES: Scholarly/Popular

Explains characteristics of different types of sources of information

Identifying Scholarly Material

The key difference between scholarly and non-scholarly publications is that scholarly publications include high quality content in articles that have been "peer-reviewed" by specialists. In library databases, scholarly journals may also be called peer-reviewed journals or academic journals.

When your professor does a research project, he writes a report about the research and sends it to a scholarly journal that other specialists will be reading. The editor of the journal sends the new submission to other specialists in the field to look at. They review the new article to see if it is good enough to publish in this journal. They look at the quality of the research experiment, among other things. This "peer-review" adds another level of validation and fact-checking to the article before it reaches you and me. This does not mean that "bad" articles don't get published but it helps to have other eyes who already know the discipline look over the article first.

Scholarly journals are publications intended for subject specialists as the audience. Because they have a limited audience and because the peer-review process is time-consuming, they are often expensive. They keep costs down by using few or no pictures and rarely use color. The covers are often simple and plain. The language is technical and specialized for other professionals. The language can be difficult to understand by non-specialists. They often include original research reports with a methodology and references. They often have unstimulating titles like Journal of Biology.

Popular magazines are written for the public. Because they have such a big audience, they can make a lot of money, which makes subscription costs lower. Issues often include glossy photos and eye-catching advertisements. They may have interesting titles like People, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, or Scientific American. Articles may be written by non-specialists (often journalists) who may or may not understand the subject matter well. Article topics are chosen to entertain and increase readership. Articles may cover research that has been done but are usually reports about research publications located in scholarly journals or interviews with the researcher. The articles are understandable by the non-specialist and can therefore be a valuable method to inform non-specialists.

Trade journals are a third category that fall between popular and scholarly journals. Trade journals are written by people in an industry for other people in that industry. For example, the oil industry has publications about the news, business, products, practices of its workers, which include scientists, salespeople, and other employees. Trade journals use color pictures and advertisements. The language may be more technical since they aren't specifically interested in the public as readers. Articles usually do not include references or abstracts.

Scholarly books are books that have undergone a peer-review process before publication. They are typically published by a professional organization or an academic press, such as Oxford University Press, Indiana University Press, etc.

 

Characteristics of Scolarly/Trade/Popular Sources

Sources

Scholarly/Academic

Trade Publication

Non-Scholarly/Popular

Purpose of the Source

To share research studies of the discipline and profession with other members of the discipline & profession

To share news and topics of interest of the discipline and profession with other members of the discipline & profession

To entertain and inform the public

Intended Audience

Experts & professionals in the profession or discipline

Experts & professionals in the profession or discipline

The general public & people NOT in the profession or discipline

Process to decide inclusion of content

Peer-review process decides publish/not

Editor who is an expert or professional in the profession or discipline decides publish/not

Editor who is NOT an expert or professional in the profession or discipline decides publish/not

Types of Content

Formal presentations of well-conducted research studies; Fits scope in the profession or discipline

Items of interest to the profession or discipline; news reports of interesting research studies; fits scope of source in the profession or discipline

Items of interest to the public

Author

Experts & professionals in the profession or discipline

Experts & professionals in the profession or discipline;

Feature writer or journalist

Publisher

Scholarly publisher or university press or professional association

Sometimes scholarly publisher; sometimes self-published by expert or professional

Commercial publisher or self-published

Cost

peer review process is expensive

Affordable to professionals; what the professionals can afford to spend

Affordable; what the market will bear

Time to Publish

From submission to publication may take months

From submission to publication may take hours or days or months

From submission to publication may take hours or days

Style & Format

Formal structure that includes components (e.g., methods, results, etc.)  of research studies required by the discipline; follows style guide of the profession or discipline

Often a narrative structure with anecdotes

Often a narrative structure with anecdotes

Abstract

Abstract present

Abstract usually not present

Abstract usually not present

Source Attribution; References

Sources are cited within the text and listed as footnotes or at the end of the document according to the style guide of the profession or discipline

Sources may be footnotes/reference list or they may be mentioned within the text in narrative form

Sources are mentioned within the text in narrative form

Language & Terminology

Professional & technical terminology is used

May include professional & technical terminology; structure may be less formal and more narrative than within a scholarly source

Language and terminology is understandable to the general public at a middle/high school reading level; professional terms are defined

Images

Images are related to the study (graphs, tables, historical photos, etc.)

Images usually related to the profession; may include stock photos related to the profession or discipline

Images may be large and colorful for eye appeal; images may be stock photos with symbolic relationship to the content (photo of a sunrise in an article about starting a new job)

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