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Research Help Guide: Scholarly / Peer Reviewed vs Popular Sources

Peer Reviewed: Explained in 3 minutes (Video)

From North Carolina State University Library (Closed Captioned)

Timeline of Information Creation (Infographic)

Hierarchy of Credible Sources (Infographic)

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Quick Summary: Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) and Popular Sources

"Scholarly" sources are

  • Written by experts (majority have advanced degrees),

  • Contain original research,

  • Cite other sources extensively throughout their work and contain works cited section

Peer reviewed articles are scholarly articles that have undergone a review process by other experts in the field before being published (hence - reviewed by their peers).

 

Popular” sources are

  • magazines, newspapers, books, websites, Youtube, trade journals etc.,.

  • written or produced for a general audience and informal in tone and scope.

  • reviewed by an editor but rarely cite other sources,

  • not peer reviewed

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More Information:

Scholarly (peer reviewed) Sources vs Popular Sources (In depth)

Evaluating your Sources

How to search 

Types of Sources (Infographic)

Expertise Matters

When choosing sources, we look at the authority of the authors:

  • Is this their subject expertise?

  • Do they hold an official title or professional designation? ? (professor?, reporter?, community elder?)

  • Do they have special experience with this topic? (leading expert? eye witness?).

 

Above all, as a researcher, you have to evaluate each source you find for its credibility, trustworthiness and qualifications.

We’ll help you evaluate your sources and distinguish between authoritative and popular sources.

Tip: Find a source that disagrees with your argument. Incorporating “dissenting” sources into your paper and debating their merit with your other supporting sources is exactly what scholarship is about. Scholarly writing is a conversation and a debate between your ideas and your sources.

Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources

In university, one of the authoritative sources you are asked to use is scholarly books and journal articles. You will also hear the term “peer reviewed” articles.

 

Here are some definitions:

Scholarly Journal Articles:  

  • written by experts (majority have advanced degrees),

  • contain original research,

  • cite other sources extensively throughout their work and contain works cited section

  • use academic or complex language, and may include disciplinary or theoretical lingo

  • published by a scholarly press that practices editorial review to ensure that content and context adhere to the expected research parameters

  • intended for an audience composed of researchers, scholars, academics, and other informed or specialized readership.

Peer Reviewed

Peer reviewed articles are scholarly articles that have undergone a review process by other experts in the field before being published (hence - reviewed by their peers).

 

 

 Find Scholarly Peer Reviewed Articles

 

 

MacLeans Magazine cover with Rob Ford - a popular source

Popular Sources:

Non-scholarly sources can contain a wealth of well-researched information for your topic, but their intended audience and their review process is different than scholarly sources.

 

Here are some definitions:

Popular Sources:

  • include magazines, trade journals, newspapers, books, websites, Youtube etc.,.

  • written or produced for a general audience and are informal in tone and scope.

  • rarely cite other sources,

  • Magazines, newspapers and books have an editor review the work but are not peer reviewed

  • tend to be short (200-500 words).

 

Find popular sources

Can I use non-scholarly sources?:

Yes, but make sure you follow your assignment guidelines. Some assignments will ask you to use a specific number of peer reviewed articles plus sources of your own choice. Just remember to evaluate your sources to ensure they are appropriate.