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Useful Terms

When you are gathering your sources, you need know the difference between popular and peer-reviewed sources.

  • Popular publications - are written by journalists to entertain or inform a general audience.
  • Scholarly publications - are written by researchers of experts in the field for other scholars.  These publications use specialized vocabulary, include citations, and are often peer-reviewed.
  • Trade Publications - are written for a particular trade, industry, or business.  These publications focus on news, trends, and opinions and are not considered scholarly.

Materials published at regular intervals such as newspapers, magazines, or journals.

A periodical written for a scholarly audience.

Peer review is a process scholarly articles go through before they are published.  An article is evaluated by experts (peers) in  the field to ensure accuracy and quality.  "Refereed" is also used to describe this process.

Popular vs. Scholarly

Sometimes professors will ask you to use "scholarly articles" rather than popular magazines or newspapers.  How can you tell the difference?  See the table below:


Scholarly Articles

 Popular Magazine


Sober and serious
May contain graphs or charts
Will not find glossy pages or photographs

Attractive appearance
Heavily illustrated
Glossy paper


 Scholars and students

 General audience


 Scholars in the field of study

 Reporters, usually not experts on the subject


 Sources cited in footnotes and/or bibliography

 Sources not cited or cited informally


 Report results of original research or experimentation

 Provide general information

 Article Acceptance

Many (but not all*) scholarly journals are "refereed" or "peer review" journals - articles undergo a rigorous examination by other scholars in the field before being published.

 Written by hired reporters, edited by magazine editors, and published.

 Example journals

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Journal of Sports Medicine
Internal Journal of Sport Psychology

Sports Illustrated
Coach and Athletic Director

 Example articles

Peer-reviewed article example

Popular article example