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Researching at Lovejoy Library: Popular vs. Scholarly

Popular vs. Scholarly

Research requires the evaluation of information.  One way to evaluate information is by if it is from a Scholarly or Popular source. One way to evaluate the usefulness of a source is determining if it is Scholarly or Popular by evaluating the source of the material. Determine who the author is, who their intended audience is, and the purpose of the material to evaluate if you wish to share those ideas in your own work. 

Popular Sources

Author

  • Social media - anyone can write
  • Blogs - anyone can write
  • Popular magazines - journalists, authors, editors
  • News - Journalists, newscasters, editors

Audience

  • Social media - anyone, generally friends, family and like minded individuals. Can skew perception of popular opinion if not careful. Information can be short and grab and lose audiences attention quickly.
  • Blogs - anyone, generally friends, family and like minded individuals. Users seek out opinions on a specific topic of interest. Requires more time to read and evaluate than short social media posts. 
  • Popular magazines  - People with specific interests such as celebrity gossip, hobbies, and interests. Uses graphics to catch reader attention. 
  • News - Can be specific or general, sports section for sports fans, opinion section, or local news. 

Purpose

  • Social media - To influence and share ideas. Social media allows for a wide variety of opinions to be shared including marginalized or extreme views. Social media influencers also can earn money for ads sold on their pages. 
  • Blogs  - To share opinions and interests on specific topics including marginalized or extreme views. Requires more time of readers. Bloggers can also earn money from ads sold on their pages. 
  • Popular magazines - To share ideas, interests, and to influence. Magazines earn money through subscriptions to their magazines and from ads sold on their pages. 
  • News - To inform and share current events and insights.  Broadcasters sell ads to fund their newscasting. 

Scholarly Sources

Author

  • Academic Journal - scholars, experts in specific fields, professors, doctoral students, students. Generally requires higher education. 
  • Nonfiction Books - authors, biographers, editors, scholars, requires higher education or first hand experience related to an event or topic. 
  • Government Documents - government agencies
  • News - Journalists, newscasters, editors

Audience

  • Academic Journal - scholars, experts in specific fields, professors, doctoral students, students. 
  • Nonfiction Books - students, biographers, editors, scholars, and people who are curious about a topic.  
  • Government Documents - government agencies, general public, scholars, students. 
  • News - People interested in in depth analysis on a topic, general population.

Purpose

  • Academic Journal - expand knowledge, influence, earn promotions, 
  • Nonfiction Books - share experiences (biographies), teach (textbooks, bibliographies), provide information 
  • Government Documents - comply with laws and regulations, prove worth of agency, share statistics and information
  • News - Inform, evaluate, investigate, influence, and sell advertisements. 

Putting it together

 Evaluating sources requires evaluating who created it, who they created it for, and why they created it. Depending on your topic, you may be able to use both popular sources and scholarly sources. Popular sources can provide an overview of a topic, or specific examples of a topic, while scholarly articles can tie the ideas together. Choosing good sources and citing them permits readers to follow your arguments and evaluate your research for themselves. Choosing sources that your readers trust and presenting findings accurately can help your readers trust your research as well.

On the surface, some sources may appear scholarly but do not hold up to stringent standards. Some popular sources may also be written by scholars or people with first hand experience with a specific topic.

The following video from the Carnegie VIncent Library shows ways to tell the difference between scholarly and popular sources.

Examples

Topics

Homelessness

Popular Sources - Personal accounts from people who have been homeless (in person, on social media, in blogs, shelter workers, news)

In Between - Documentaries on homelessness.

Scholarly Sources - government statistics on homelessness, service agency reports, books compiling sources with evaluation.