Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Popular sources of evidence are generally written for a wider audience, freely available in print and digital versions, and they may offer interesting insights that can draw you in. However, they do not meet the same standards as a scholarly source, which has been peer reviewed and published by an academic publisher.

The peer review process ensures that journal articles and scholarly texts meet the conventions of scholarship within a particular discipline. Scholarly work identifies and cites all evidence, uses sound methodology, and makes arguments which are supported by sound research. A scholarly source is often easily identified by its organization, use of references, and the credentials of the author or publisher.

Although your instructor may not appreciate your use of a popular psychology book, there are some popular sources that may be useful in the context of scholarly research. Sources like newspaper articles, documentaries and corporate websites are not scholarly, but they can offer useful information that you can include in your analysis alongside evidence and arguments presented by scholarly sources.

In addition, popular sources can be a good place to start your research in order to give you a general overview of the topic. You can then hone in on more specific and scholarly sources once you understand the big picture. Read more on the importance of preliminary research.


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