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Popular vs. Scholarly

Distinguishing between popular and scholarly articles in a General (or all topics) Index

When you are searching a general index, you may need to distinguish between citations to popular and scholarly articles.

The EBSCOHost and ProQuest all topics or multidisciplinary databases have a checkbox on the screen which allows you to limit your search to peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. When you use this option, the database will only return citations of articles from peer-reviewed journals. However, not all articles in peer-reviewed journals are scholarly. You might see citations to short book reviews, letters, or editorials.

Clues to determining if a citation is scholarly or popular

  1. Citations to scholarly articles will always have one or more authors; popular articles might not list an author.

  2. Scholarly articles are usually at least 5 pages, and often much longer. Popular articles may be only a page or two long.

  3. Scholarly articles always have a bibliography and/or footnotes. Look for a note that indicates footnotes or references. Popular articles often don't have footnotes.

  4. Consider the periodical title. Scholarly journals tend to have titles that include words like "journal," "quarterly," or "proceedings." Popular magazines rarely use these words in the title, and you are likely to recognize the name from the racks at the grocery or drugstore.


  Scholarly Popular
Author One or more May not list, only one
Length At least 5 pages, often longer One or two pages
Footnotes Always Never
Publication Title Words like "journal" "quarterly" "proceedings" You'll recognize them from the rack at your grocery or drugstore

WANT MORE on popular vs. scholarly?
> Unit 9 > Evaluating Sources > Type of Periodical

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