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BIO 101: The Freshman Experience in Biology: Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Resources for students enrolled in the BIO 101 course

Scholarly or Popular?

The following chart can help you determine the quality of the material you find by understanding the typical characteristics of the type of publication.

SCHOLARLY ARTICLES

POPULAR ARTICLES

AUTHORS

Written by scholars and researchers in a specific field.

Written by professional or free-lance writers or occasionally by a well-known scholar.

The author(s) name appears at the beginning or end of the article. The author(s)’ credentials are often included.

Articles are often written by staff writers. The author’s name does not always appear in the article.

 

AUDIENCE

Written in technical and scholarly language understood by researchers, professionals, and students in that field.

Written for a general audience.

SOURCES

Always includes a bibliography (a list of sources or citations).

Rarely includes a bibliography or notes.

TOPICS

Focuses on academic study and research in the field.

Deals with general interest and current topics.

CONTENT

Also called “academic,” “scholarly,” or “peer-reviewed.” The articles generally have a serious look. They often contain results of experiments—graphs, charts and photographs. Few or no ads.

The articles generally have glossy photos and illustrations. Includes many ads for consumer goods. Articles are informative but not scholarly.

PRIMARY RESEARCH

Scholarly journals will contain both primary and secondary research.

Articles in popular publications are generally considered secondary sources.

PEER REVIEW

Research articles are usually submitted for peer review.

Not peer-reviewed; reviewed by the publication’s editorial staff.

INDEXING

Identified in subject-specialized indexes and databases. Eg.: BioOne, PubMed, PsycInfo, MLA Bibliography, Historical Abstracts, etc.

Identified in general periodical indexes & databases such as Academic Search Premier, Academic Onefile, etc.

EXAMPLES OF JOURNALS

Journal of Experimental Biology,
Shakespeare Quarterly,
Journal of Educational Research, 
etc.

Discover
The Economist 
National Review

National Geographic
Psychology Today
Time
, etc.

Ulrich's Global Serials Directory

Ulrich's gives detailed information about periodicals, including the peer-reviewed scientific journals you'll use for this project.  Look up a journal in Ulrich's for quick information about publishers, impact factor, and peer-review status. 

Limiting your Search

Many databases offer checkboxes that allow you to limit your search to "Scholarly" or "Peer Reviewed" articles.  While this option is very helpful, it does not necessarily guarantee that the results will be peer-reviewed... so you will still have to use your evaluative skills to make the call!