The Research Process

Types of Sources: Popular and Scholarly

Popular Sources

Popular, here, is being used in the sense of “for the people” (as opposed to “likeable”). Popular sources are written for a public audience, not necessarily for experts. Popular sources are often written by journalists, though sometimes experts in a particular field will author an article for a popular publication like a newspaper or magazine. We can also consider blog posts, websites (yes, even “.org” and “.edu” websites), and social media posts popular sources.

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources are articles that are published in academic research journals. They are generally written by people who hold Ph.D.’s in an academic field for other Ph.D.’s in that same field. In scientific scholarly articles, the goals, methods, and results of the author’s original research is described. In scholarly publications in the Humanities, authors’ original analyses are conducted.

Before being published, a scholarly article must go through a rigorous process of peer review, whereby other experts (also people with Ph.D.’s) in the author’s same field read through the paper in order to approve it for publication. This is a rigorous process that goes well beyond editing and instead examines the validity of the research project and its findings.