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 select the right resources for your research.


Scholarly vs. Popular Comparison

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