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Information Literacy: 12. Popular vs. Scholarly

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Management, the Pacific Northwest College of Arts, and the School of Computing and Informations Sciences.

Popular vs. Scholarly Video

Popular vs. Scholar Articles
Learn to differentiate between popular and scholarly sources and will be able to use them appropriately in their research.

(Carnegie Vincent Library video, 4:11 min.)

Locating Scholarly Articles

Find out how to search for scholarly articles within EbscoHost's Academic Search Complete database, as well as other useful tips that will help you become a more efficient researcher. Additional info is available on the Popular vs. Scholarly page.

Comparing Scholarly and Popular Articles

Examples of Scholarly & Popular Articles

Image of examples of scholarly and popular journals

Differences Between Scholarly and Popular



Appears in magazines and newspapers, often with glossy or eye-catching covers.  Geared toward a broad, general audience, and articles are reviewed by professional staff editors.


Language is meant to be understood by the general population.  Tend to be shorter than journal articles.  May include pictures, special layouts and/or advertisements. Do not usually list references or notes. 


Review process is short in order to get published quickly. Good place to look for current info and events, and useful for getting an overview of a topic. May tell human interest stories or convey emotional responses.  




Published in subject-specific journals typically available through subscription only; won't find them in stores.  Geared towards scholars and experts in the field, and are reviewed by other scholars in the field (known as the peer-review process).


Appear in subject-specific journals, and are written by and for scholars and researchers.  Often refereed or peer-reviewed.  May include graphs, data and/or statistics about the research. Use subject-specific terminology and phrases.  Usually includes a list of references or notes, and articles tend to be more lengthy.


Useful for gathering subject-specific info, research and data. Major way for scholars to communicate, and may present or review research or criticism on a given topic. Quality and reliability of the info is much greater, particularly if it is peer-reviewed.



  • Both scholarly and popular sources can be useful sources. 
  • When selecting articles, consider how you intend to use the information: 
    • Do you want background on a topic? (popular
    • Do you need reliable and well-research information? (scholarly) 
  • Often a combination of the two will be most appropriate for undergraduate research.
Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209