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Language Studies @ UTSC

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Not sure if the item you found is a scholarly source? Use the table below for descriptions and examples of scholarly and non-scholarly sources.

  Description Example
Scholarly Source (Academic)
  • Written by a scholar or researcher in the field
  • Disseminates research and academic discussion among scholars and researchers within the discipline
  • Intended for university-level study and research
  • Formal presentation of scholarly work in a standard style
  • Language is formal and technical
  • References are always cited
  • Academic books
  • Journals and journal articles
  • Conference publications
Popular Source (Non-Scholarly)
  • Written by a journalist or feature writer
  • Informs or entertains the general public
  • Allows practitioners to share industry, practice, and production information
  • Often presented in story format, with anecdotes from other people
  • Language is casual, with few technical terms
  • Text may contain vague mentions to studies or research, but may not have detailed references
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Trade journals
  • Popular books

Evaluating Sources

Use the seven criteria below to evaluate whether a source is scholarly or non-scholarly.

  Scholarly (Academic) Source Non-Scholarly (Popular) Source
  • To share with other scholars the results of primary research & experiments.
  • To entertain or inform in a broad, general sense.
  • A respected scholar or researcher in the field; an expert in the topic; names are always noted.
  • A journalist or feature writer; names are not always noted.
  • A university press; a professional association or known (independent) scholarly publisher.
  • A commercial publisher; self-published.
  • Scholars or researchers in the field or those interested in the topic at a research level; university students.
  • General public.
  • Formal presentation of scholarly work in a standard style; often an abstract at the beginning of the article. Articles may have section headings, such as literature review, methodology, results, discussion/further study.
  • Often presented in story format, with anecdotes from other people.
  • Language is formal and technical; usually contains discipline-specific jargon.
  • Language is casual (high school reading level or lower). Few, if any, technical terms are used (and if they are, they are usually defined.)
  • Standard element; reference are always cited and expected; can also be called "works cited," or "bibliographies;" text often contains footnotes.
  • Very uncommon; text may contain vague referrals to "a study published at..." or "researchers found that..." with no other details about that information.



Adapted from the Valparaiso University Library.