Scholarly sources are often required for college level research. They have the highest level of authority, as they are written by experts in the discipline, generally PhDs. Many but not all of them are peer-reviewed, also known as refereed. In the peer-review process, articles are scrutinized by a panel of experts to verify accuracy, validity, and value to the profession.
Trade journal articles are written by those practicing in the field. The authors may be nurses, teachers, managers, engineers, etc. The purpose for the journal is to share information and practical strategies among people who are working in a profession. They are less lengthy and may have a few or no references at the end.
Popular sources are those written by journalists or freelance writers. They are meant to appeal to the general public, often with sensationalized titles, glossy photos and illustrations, and many advertisements. Their main purpose is to entertain and generate revenue. Use the chart below to help you compare scholarly, trade, and popular publications, or use the attached document.
|AUTHOR||Usually a Ph.D., a professor affiliated with a college or university||Practitioners/professionals working within a field||Usually a staff writer, journalist, free-lance writer, or unknown author|
|CONTENT||Research reports, methodology, theory||Industry trends, new developments, information to help workers on the job||News, opinions, general interest articles|
|PURPOSE||Advance knowledge and share research||Update practitioners and provide news/information to workers within a field||Inform, persuade, entertain (and let's get real...mostly to entertain and make a profit)|
|AUDIENCE||Scholars and researchers||Professionals and practitioners||General public|
|CITATIONS||Many citations listed at end||Might have a few||Almost never|
|Yes, at beginning of the article, written by the author||Hardly ever (don't confuse the description given in the database record for an abstract)||Nope|
|PEER-REVIEWED||Most are (check Ulrichsweb, see below)||No||No|
|LANGUAGE||Technical and assumes a scholarly background||Industry jargon and assumes an understanding of the field||Everyday language and easily accessible to the general public|
|VISUALS||Figures, graphs, tables, charts that support research||Pictures and illustrations that bring interest to the article's content||Pictures and illustrations generalized throughout|
|ADVERTISING||Usually none||Ads that are targeted to an industry or field||Ads throughout to finance the magazine|
|EXAMPLES||Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Advanced Nursing, World Politics||U.S. Banker, Progressive Farmer, Social Education||National Geographic, Newsweek, Time|
Before you begin looking for articles, have a clear sense of the assignment and your professor's expectations.
If you are not sure, ask your professor. A librarian can help you to locate proper sources and/or help you to review the sources you have found.
If you have free rein over the types of resources to use for a paper, think about what you need:
Choose source types on these bases, with a critical eye.