Skip to Content
Ask a Librarian! instant messaging icon IM | email icon Email | phone icon Phone | link icon Links    
rentschler library homepage rentschler reference

How are Scholarly Articles different than Popular Articles?

Tutorial illustrating the differences between scholarly and popular articles

When writing college research papers, you may be asked to include "scholarly"--also known as "peer reviewed"--articles as resources. Many databases, including Academic Search Complete, have search features that enable you to limit your results to articles found in peer reviewed journals. For other databases and for articles you may find online, it's a good idea to understand the differences between scholarly and popular articles so that you pick the right resources for your research.

Scholarly -v- Popular Comparison

Characteristics Scholarly Popular
Language/Audience Written using formal vocabulary that is technical in nature & directed towards a scholarly audience Written in non-technical language directed towards a general audience
Length Longer articles, may be 5-50 pages long Short articles, usually 1-5 pages long
Scope Article covers a very specialized topic of research and provides in-depth analysis of subject matter Provides a more broad overview of topic and may cover more than one subject
Authorship Name and credentials of author always provided, author is usually an expert or specialist in the field, and there may be multiple authors Name and credentials may not be provided, author is usually a staff writer or journalist
Format/Layout Articles are usually structured into sections that may include: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography Articles probably do not follow a specific format
Inclusions/Illustrations May include illustrations that visually support the text, such as graphs, tables, or maps Usually include illustrations chosen for visual appeal or advertising purposes, such as glossy or color photographs
Editors Articles are "peer reviewed", or refereed by other experts in the field prior to selection Articles are not evaluated for accuracy by experts in the field, but may be checked by staff editors
References Articles always include a detailed bibliography or works cited page to document the research and may also include footnotes A bibliography is usually not provided, although some additional references may be listed throughout the article or at the end