Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Information Evaluation: Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Also Known As...

Most of your academic research will involve using scholarly sources, which may also be called academic journals, scholarly journals, or peer-reviewed journals.   In this guide, we will use the term scholarly sources to refer to all of these resources.  Books and internet resources can also include scholarly information, and these will have the same identifying characteristics as scholarly journals.  

The term popular sources generally refers to popular journals, newspapers, and general interest web sites.  

If you are not sure which category a resource you have found falls into, ask your professor, or chat with a reference librarian.  

Scholarly - Popular Comparison

Things to remember about peer-reviewed (scholarly) articles:

1. Typically written by professors, scholars, professional researchers or experts in the field

2. Before publication, articles are scrutinized by other experts in the same field (that's why we call it "peer review")

3. Because of this rigorous review process, peer-review articles are considered to be among the most authoritative and reliable sources you can choose for your research paper or project

4. Peer reviewed articles usually have a narrow focus, and often report the results of a research study. You must think critically and carefully about how such an article applies to your topic. Often, they can provide excellent examples or case studies to support the arguments or explanations within your research paper.

5. Occasionally, academic/scholarly journals publish articles that have not been peer-reviewed (for example, an editorial opinion piece can be published in a scholarly journal, but the article itself is not "scholarly" because it hasn't been peer-reviewed).

Additional Resources

Video (2:57): What is A Scholarly Journal Article?


This guide is based on the work of Mike FitzGerald, Los Angeles Valley College Library, which can be found here.

The SIFT Method portion of this guide was adapted from "Check, Please!" (Caulfield). The canonical version of Check, Please! exists at (CC-BY). As the authors of the original version have not reviewed any other copy's modifications, the text of any site not arrived at through the above link should not be sourced to the original authors.