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Sociology Resources: Popular vs. Scholarly

Academic Sources

Characteristics of Academic Sources
Who writes academic articles? Academic, or scholarly sources are written by researchers or experts in a particular field or discipline
How are articles chosen for publication? Academic articles are edited AND reviewed by researchers in that field to insure the author(s) have reached a certain level of scholarship appropriate for researchers, professors, and students
Where are academic sources found? In academic publications such as journals. Also called: peer-reviewed and scholarly.
Who are academic articles written for? They are written for researchers (students, professionals in the field, faculty, etc.)

Scholarly Articles

Know your sources

When do we choose academic sources over popular?

Academic sources are used to add strength to a research paper because academic sources are written by experts in the field and have been judged on their quaility of research.

For example, if you want to write about some causes of climate change, you will want to add validity to your argument by citing the work of scientists. If you cite from publications like Newsweek and Time, you are only citing what a journalist is reporting.

Since popular sources (like magazines and newspapers) are written primarily by journalists, they do not have to reveal their sources. Even if they use authoritative sources, you may never know or you will never see their source's work.

Scholars who write for academic publications have to show their work for their academic peers to evaluate and critique.

Popular Sources

Characteristics of Popular Sources
Who writes popular articles? Popular articles are written generally by journalists
How are popular articles chosen for publication? Popular sources are edited by editors for gramatical and spelling mistakes, NOT reviewed by researchers in the field
Where are popular sources found? Popular sources are generally found in magazines and newspapers
Who are popular articles written for? Popular sources are written for wide audience using simple language to entertain, to report news, or to summarize information

When do we choose popular sources over academic?

Popular sources are great for information on popular opinion. They are written by journalists for a wide audience, to sometimes make difficult concepts easier to understand.

Some popular sources are more authoritative than others (like trade publications in a field), but they are not necessarily being evaluated on the content of their work.

Popular sources can often help you frame your argument or give you topics to research in the future. For example, if you are interested in how we as a society will prepare to reduce climate change, you may see an article in Newsweek that highlights some steps you can take. Then you can research those strategies in academic sources and see what the experts say about them.

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