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Library Orientation: Scholarly vs. Popular and/or Reliable

An easy access point to the LRD library resources.

Why Does It Matter?

Scholarly materials are preferred in college level work because these types of materials utilize proven research methods to study a subject and both the research and conclusions have been judged sound by a group of the researcher's peers.

In this way the work is transparent -- you can go back to the same sources or replicate the study yourself because you know the process the original researcher used.

This is not true of "popular" or non-scholarly materials.

Popular materials are sometimes used in academic research, usually as primary sources.

Scholarly, Popular, and Reliable

ScholarlyPopularReliable
References Always include a list of cited references. Do not cite references.

May cite references.

Content Report on original research projects and all research articles are peer-reviewed. Typically reporting on current events, trends, or issues. Will usually include factual support for any arguments made.

Look for facts used to support the author's argument.

Will be geared towards an educated audience.

Look for resources that do not favor one side of an issue, or one point of view, over another.
Authorship Names, credentials, and contact information provided. May not provide a named author; typically does not include author's credentials and may not have contact information for the author. Look for list of authors and their affiliations and/or credentials.
Language Written in a formal manner, using technical language that is specific to a particular discipline. Written using less formal language and is easy to understand.
Look for high-quality writing, including correct grammar and spelling.

Appearance Very serious looking; rarely includes color photographs or advertisements. Not as serious looking -- usually has lots of color photographs and advertisements. Varies, may or may not include color illustrations or advertisements.
Publisher Published by academic presses. Published by commercial publishers. Government agencies, non-partisan research institutes or policy think-tanks, trade or professional groups, major media such as The Economist, New York Times, or Christian Science Monitor.

What Are Scholarly Materials?

This video was created by the Peabody Library at Vanderbilt University.

Subject Guide