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What are Popular, Trade and Scholarly Sources?

Popular, Trade and Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources

Popular sources are typically written by journalists or staff writers, who are employed by the publisher for which they write. Popular information sources cover news and current events in a field; report on news of general interest; write profiles of people, places, or events; and express political opinions. These types of sources are typically full of advertisements, and are focused on making a profit.


Trade Sources

Trade sources are typically written by people working a particular field, for other people working in that field. They typically discuss practical application; cover news in the field; present brief reports on research; offer opinions about trends, events, and industry/forecasts. They are a good source of information if you are looking for news and trends about a particular field or occupation. 


Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources, usually articles, are written by researchers who are experts in their field. Often, these experts are employed by colleges, universities, scientific or medical laboratories, or other institutions of education or research. Often, the goal of a scholarly article is to present new and original research conducted by the authors. 

Scholarly sources are considered much more credible than other sources because of peer review.

What is Peer Review?

The most-respected scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, which means that other experts in their field check out each article before it can be published. It’s their responsibility to help guarantee that new material is presented in the context of what is already known, that the methods the researcher used are the right ones, and that the articles contribute to the field.

Peer-reviewed articles are more likely to be credible. Peer-reviewed journal articles are the official scholarly record, which means that if it’s an important development in research, it will probably turn up in a journal article eventually.

When talking about "scholarly" articles, most professors usually mean that they want you to find a peer-reviewed source. 

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In More Detail

  • Articles and books that summarize complex topics for a general audience
  • Articles & books that summarize scholarly research for a general audience
    • Critically consider accuracy of summary
  • Authors are often strong writers, reporters, or journalists, but not experts in the field
    • experts and academics can also write popular articles and books for a general audience
  • Editorial review varies
  • Content does not cite to a list of references in most instances but briefly mentions sources in the text itself
  • Language is often easier to read
  • Often contains an abundance of colorful images
  • Advertising accompanies popular magazine or articles/blogs on the web 

Examples: TIME, Teen Vogue, WIRED

  • Articles and books that are written to summarize or analyze current topics and trends in a profession or industry
  • Authors of the articles are often individuals experienced in the industry or writers who follow an industry
  • Often written from the industry perspective
  • Content covers topics and trends in more detail and depth than a popular source
  • Language is often more technical and detailed
  • Citations are often provided within the text with no bibliography or a short bibliography
  • Images are less than popular to support the content
  • Advertising is usually industry specific
  • Published or supported by an industry association/group in many cases

Examples: Today's Veterinary Technician, ABA Journal, Progressive Grocer

  • Articles and books written by scholars, researchers, and academics for other scholars, researchers, academics and STUDENTS
  • Articles communicate, detail, and record new knowledge
  • Almost no advertising; any advertisements are usually for academic programs or professional development
  • Any graphic representation of data is usually much more complicated than what you might see in a popular source
  • Data used in graphs or other graphics can all be found within that publication, so you can check accuracy
  • Has undergone the peer-review process: other scholars and experts in the field on the editorial board of the journal have read the article to make sure it is accurate, timely, and important to the discipline
  • Often peer-reviewed journals are very expensive to subscribe to, but there are open-access peer-reviewed journals

Examples: CellAmerican Journal of Epidemiology