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Scholarly & Popular Articles: What's The Difference?

Authorship: Who wrote it?

Scholarly

  • Written by researchers and subject experts.
  • Approved by peer-review.

Popular

  • Written by a journalist who is not necessarily an expert on the subject.
  • No formal peer-review.
Audience: For whom is it written?

Scholarly

  • Written mostly for other members of an academic discipline ( researchers, professors and students).
  • Language will include terms and statistical figures that are commonly used in the discipline.
  • The author assumes that the reader already has a certain level of knowledge about the field and the topic.

Popular

  • Written for a general reader who might not know much about the topic.
  • Free of technical jargon.
Purpose: Why was it written?

Scholarly

Written to report research and scholarly ideas and to add to the body of scholarly knowledge about the subject.

Popular

Meant to entertain, inform, report news, or to summarize information.
References: Is there a bibliography or list of references?

Scholarly

Includes extensive bibliography or listing of references.

Popular

Unlikely to include a bibliography, but sources may be mentioned by name within the article.
Publisher: What kind of publication does it come from?

Scholarly

  • Published by a university press or professional organizations.
  • Found in a print or online journal that is published monthly or quarterly (4 times a year) but may also be published at other intervals (weekly, bimonthly, yearly, etc.), typically less frequently than magazines or newspapers.

Popular

  • Published by a commercial publisher.
  • Published more frequently. Magazines are usually published weekly or monthly while newspapers are usually published daily or weekly.
Appearance: Does the format of the article have a distinct appearance?

Scholarly

  • Usually follows strict formatting guidelines to include sections such as abstract, research methodology, data, discussion of the results and implications of the research.
  • Photographs and illustrations appear only as necessary to support the research topic.

Popular

  • More informal format.
  • May be supplemented with colorful photographs and illustrations.
  • May include advertisements unrelated to the subject of the article or publication.
Examples

What is peer review?

In the peer review process, a proposed article is reviewed by other subject experts or scholars in the field before publication to verify that the methodology and conclusions are valid. This process helps to make sure the article meets a high level of quality and academic standards. You might also see the term refereed, which is another way of saying peer-reviewed.

Scholarly journal is a broader term that includes any peer-reviewed/refereed publications.  Articles from scholarly journals share all the same characteristics of peer-reviewed/refereed journals but may not have undergone a formal or rigorous peer review process.

More Sources

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