CLEAR Program: Scholarly or Popular

Characteristics of Scholarly Artilces

WHAT IS A SCHOLARLY JOURNAL?

A scholarly journal contains articles (and sometimes 'open letters') written by scholars to report results of research and other scholarly activities. What sets 'scholarly articles' apart is that they are reviewed by other scholars in the field before publication is approved. Besides following proper style requirements, the scholarly reviewers examine each submitted paper for:

  • Basing their research on the findings of earlier, published, scholarly works
  • Designing the research and analyzing results in a correct or reasonable manner
  • Basing conclusions on the evidence provided by the author's experimental results
  • Exceptions are made for articles that are Exceptional

Researchers can make mistakes designing and conducting research and later during the analysis of results. Scholarly review attempts to keep mistakes out of the scholarly record (the peer-reviewed journals) in order to more quickly advance knowledge. For most academic papers, scholarly articles are excellent resources and the preferred sources for supporting your arguments.

WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF A SCHOLARLY JOURNAL?

  • Scholarly journals are usually published or sponsored by a professional society or association.
  • There may be a list of reviewers on the first few pages. This type of journal is known as a "juried", "refereed", or "peer reviewed" journal. In such journals, all articles are reviewed by experts before publication so the journals tend to be considered among the best in their fields.

Some Differences between Scholarly and Popular Publications:

 

SCHOLARLY JOURNAL

POPULAR MAGAZINE

Audience

Professionals, Professors, Graduate Students

People without a college degree in the subject

Indexing
(Databases)

Indexed in Multidisciplinary and subject-specific indexes like Biological Abstracts, Historical Abstracts, etc. Databases known to primarily, or exclusively, accept only peer-reviewed articles for publication.

Indexed in general-purpose indexes like Readers' Guide or ProQuest/Periodical Abstracts. Databases known to cover the 'Popular Literature' where the author's background or knowledge is unknown.

Language

Field-specific language/jargon, requires reader to be conversant with other research in the field.

Written in everyday language accessible to any generally knowledgeable reader.

 

Some Differences between the Articles in Scholarly and Popular publications:

 

SCHOLARLY ARTICLES

POPULAR ARTICLES

Author

Author's credentials in the field are established (e.g., institutional affiliation, maybe degrees, etc.)

Authors may not have special qualifications for writing article; credentials are not given

Bibliography

Yes.

Probably not.

Research

Usually based on original research or new applications based, at least in part, on the original scholarly research of others.

The author may be a reporter; someone who have done "background research", but not "original" research, the actual lab work, math, or theoretical analysis.

 

Scholarly, Popular, or Trade?

For a side-by-side comparison of scholarly, popular, and trade publications, check out this page by the  NCSU Libraries.

Is it Scholarly or Popular ?

This video by Vanderbilt University's Peabody Library on how to determine if a periodical is popular or scholarly, especially when the distinction might not be so clear cut. 

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