Both scholarly and popular sources can be appropriate for your research purposes, depending on your research question, but many assignments will require you to use scholarly materials. It's important to know the difference:
|Authors:||College and university faculty, researchers and other experts.||Generalists, including staff writers and journalists; authors are not always named|
Examples: Book Publishers
Popular books are published by general interst publishers such as Penguin and Random House.
|Scope:||Specialized and in-depth||Usually broader; an introduction or an overview|
|Language:||Dense; includes academic jargon||Easier to read; defines specialized terms|
|Format:||Almost always include: abstracts, literature reviews, methodologies, results, and conclusions||Varies; usually a simpler format than scholarly journal articles.|
|Citations:||Include bibliographies, citations, and footnotes that follow a particular academic style guide||No formal citations included; may or may not informally attribute sources in text|
|Before publication:||Evaluated by peers (other scholars)||Edited by in-house editors|
|Audience:||Specialists in the subject area: students, professors and the author's peers||General readers; shouldn't require any special background|
|Design:||Mostly text, with some tables and charts; very little photography; no advertising||Glossy images, attractive design; photo illustrations and advertising are more common|
|Purpose:||Communicating research findings; education;||Entertainment; news|
How do I find scholarly and popular articles and books?
Materials found in the Library's databases and the Library's discovery tool (UC Library Search) have been vetted for quality; most will come from scholarly journals and books or reputable popular publications.
Materials found through an Internet search engine can be...anything. They can include scholarly journals, reputable popular publications, reputable blogs, and... clickbait, or disinformation.
Although there are reasons to use free websites for research, be very careful. What does your assignment call for? Make sure you evaluate sources carefully. If you have any questions, ask a librarian for assistance.
An example of a scholarly article: notice the abstract (summary), footnotes, author's academic credentials:
Example of a popular article: