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Berkeley Global Students: How to Access Library Services

Scholarly vs. Popular: A Comparison

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:


  Scholarly Popular
Authors: College and university faculty, researchers and other experts. Generalists, including staff writers and journalists; authors are not always named

Examples: Journals/Magazines




Examples: Book Publishers

Journal of Asian HistoryNew England Journal of Medicine, Chemical Reviews, Educational Psychologist


Often published by University presses such as Oxford University Press or  the University of California Press.

Magazines such as The New Yorker,  Time Magazine; newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post


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.

Examples of Scholarly and Popular Articles

An example of a scholarly article:  notice the abstract (summary), footnotes, author's academic credentials:





Example of a popular article: