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ENG 104: Emily Scalzo

Academic vs. Popular

You will encounter diverse sources in your research. There are many types of sources that can be considered reliable: for example, there are many news and magazine articles that are popular sources but are also reliable.

When your instructor discusses academic journal articles, these differ from popular resources because they are geared toward an academic audience. They are articles written by scholars or professionals in their fields and published in academic journals.

The articles in academic (or scholarly) journals undergo an editorial process that helps to ensure their reliability. This process may be done by an editor or group of editors, or articles may also go through a process where they are reviewed by other scholars in the field. This process is called peer review. 

Take a look at the slides below (or download the PowerPoint) to check out some of the key characteristics of a scholarly article. 

Remember, you can contact us using our Ask a Librarian services if you are having any trouble deciding if your source is scholarly. 

Is it a scholarly article?

Is it a scholarly article? (Use the arrows to the right and left to navigate)
These are some of the important characteristics of a scholarly article: the authors have a degree or certification in their field; the authors follow ethical research practices; the authors describe their methods and publish following a set of guidelines accepted in their field; the article is published in a respected scholarly journal.
Looking at the layout and content of an article will quickly tell you whether or not it is a scholarly article.
(Screenshot of the first page of the article). You will often find the university or research organization affiliations of the authors on the first page. A footnote detailing author affiliations is often located at the bottom of the first page.
(Screenshot of the first page of the article). The abstract is often located on the first page. Some abstracts include sections, like this one; others may be a simple paragraph. If you would like a quick overview of the article, check the abstract, usually on the first page. This will go over the main points or findings of the article. The authors often describe their research methods in the abstract.
(Screenshot of p. 2 of the article with the Background section) Most academic articles will include a section that overviews recent and foundational studies on the topic.   It may have a background section, like this article, descriptive section titles, or the section may be titled “Literature Review.”  This section will include lots of citations. Note: If you are looking for more articles on your topic, these introductory sections can lead you to relevant publications.
(Screenshot of the article page 2 showing the Methods section). Scholarly articles usually have a Methods section. It may have a related title, such as “Research Questions.”  Note: The Methods section is the single most important section for seeing how the researchers did their study, what population they focused upon, the procedures for gathering data, etc.
(Screenshot showing the article page 3 and the Results section). Academic articles that report on original research usually include a Results section. Academic articles in fields such as literary studies or history would be less likely to have this kind of section.
(Screenshot of page 5 of the article that shows a probability graph). Academic articles from the natural and social sciences usually report their data in some way within the article or in an appendix. It may be a chart or graph for quantitative research, or even interview transcripts or question sets for qualitative research.
(Screenshot showing page 7 of the article with the Discussion section). Most academic articles include a Discussion section that contextualizes the results.
(Screenshot showing page 9 of the article with the Conclusions section). Most academic articles will have a section like this one near the end of the article that discuss the key findings and point to possible directions for future research.

PowerPoint version