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Evaluating Sources: Is it Popular or Scholarly?

Is it Popular or is it Scholarly?






Intended for a general audience with no special knowledge of the subject.

Intended for scholars, professionals and others with specialized knowledge of the subject.


Written by a journalist or layperson without significant academic or professional credentials in the field.

Written by an acknowledged or recognized expert in the field, such as an academic scholar or prominent professional.


Consists of general interest items, hot topics, opinions, current news or events, or introductory or overview information.

Consists of research reports, comprehensive and detailed treatments of a specific area of study, or critical reviews.


Uses basic language that the average person understands.

Uses jargon (terminology specific to the field) that only experts and scholars will fully understand.


Published by a trade publisher for mass market sales.

Published by a scholarly or academic press for a limited interest market such as libraries and specialists in the field.


Written to inform the public about a topic of interest to everyone.

Written to share the results of new research or to inform other experts of a new discovery or theory.


Please note that Popular and Scholarly classifications are NOT the same as Primary and Secondary!

Your Librarian

Laurie Preston's picture
Laurie Preston
McGraw-Page Library
Randolph-Macon College
P.O. Box 5005
305 Henry Street
Ashland VA 23005-5505