Scholarly and Popular Sources
In the research process, it is critical to understand and recognize the difference between scholarly information sources and "popular" information sources. I need to
- recognize scholarly sources
- recognize popular sources
- understand what my professor means by “peer-reviewed” sources
- learn how to search databases for peer-reviewed sources
Recognizing scholarly sources
In general, scholary sources tend to be...
- written for an audience of specialists
- written using a specialized vocabulary
- longer articles providing in-depth analysis
- more structured, and may includes sections such as the Abstract, Literature Review, and Conclusion
- reviewed and edited by experts in the field
- illustrated with tables, charts, or graphs
Recognizing popular sources
In general popular sources tend to be...
- written for a general audience
- written using non-technical language anyone can understand
- shorter articles offering a broader overview
- without a formal structure
- reviewed and edited by staff writers, not necessarily experts in the field
- illustrated with color photographs, often for the purpose of advertising
What is "peer review"?
Peer Review is the process by which an article is evaluated by a group of specialists in its given field prior to being "accepted" for publication.
For example, The Quarterly Review of Biology is peer-reviewed. Newsweek is not peer-reviewed.
Typically, if your professor refers to scholarly, academic, or refereed journals, he or she is referring to journals that are peer-reviewed.
Many indexes and databases include a field in which the journal's scholarly or peer-review status is defined.
For example, look at the following article citation. You'll see that The Journal of the Early Republic is clearly classified as peer-reviewed.
Searching for scholarly articles using databases
A number of the databases available through the Grinnell College Libraries allow you to limit your searches strictly to peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. For example, in the database Academic Search Premier, simply check off the "Peer Reviewed" box before entering a search.
Please remember that the librarians at Burling Library and Kistle Science Library are happy to assist you in locating and identifying appropriate journal articles.