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Research Process: Scholarly vs. Popular

This guide focuses on the skills and resources needed to complete a research project.

Reading an Article

How do I know?

Use the following criteria to determine whether an article comes from a scholarly journal or a popular magazine:

  • Accountability
  • Audience
  • Author
  • Content
  • Graphics
  • Language
  • Layout & Organization
  • References.

Types of Publications

There are several different types of publications so you must learn to differentiate scholarly articles from the rest. Here is a quick guide:

Scholarly: This type of publication is meant to inform and report original research or experimentation to the rest of the scholarly world. They generally have substantial bibliographies and foot notes, contain technical terminology and have many graphs and charts to support the research.  
Trade: This type of publication is meant to provide news and information to those in a particular profession or industry. They are written by the practitioners or educators within the industry. Unlike scholarly journals, trade magazines will have extensive advertising aimed at people within the field.  
News or Opinion: This type of publication is meant to provide general information to an educated lay audience. They do not use technical language and do not emphasize a speciality. They include extensive advertising aimed at the general public.   
Popular: This type of publication is meant to entertain or persuade. Their agenda is to sell products or services. They use simple language to meet a minimum education level and include extensive advertising aimed at the general public. 

The Peer-Review Process

Here is a short video explaining the peer-review process.


Scholarly articles are written by experts in academic and professional fields. They are a great resource for finding out what has already been studied or researched as well as finding bibliographies that can point you to other relevant information resources.

Finding Scholarly Articles

When looking for scholarly articles you should start with the library's databases. You can find the library's website at here. On this page you will find our All-One-Search, a large one search option to all of the Library's resources including scholarly articles.


You should being with a few simple keywords. Here is an example of the search results for the keywords interest rates:

Make sure that you check the option to refine your results to only include peer reviewed results. You will find this option on the left side of the screen.

Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed or Refereed

Often you will hear the terms scholarly, peer-reviewed or referred used interchangeably to describe articles. However, they are not the same thing. Peer-reviewed or refereed articles are read and evaluated by experts in the field before they are accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Most scholarly articles are peer-reviewed or refereed, some are not. Generally, instructors are happy with either peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. However, if you must have a peer-reviewed source you can check the journal's website or ask a librarian.

Parts of a Journal Article

Reading scholarly articles is different than reading a book. There is no need to read the article word for word from front to back. This could be a waste of time if it turns out that it does not meet your research needs. Follow these steps to save time and get the most out of the article:


Step 1 -  Read the Abstract

 The abstract will provide a brief description of the article. It will outline the problem and its setting, outline of the study, argument or experiment and a summary of the conclusions or findings. If the information that is in the abstract does not apply to your research needs then the article will not be useful. Generally, when searching for an article the database will provide the abstract. 



Step 2 - Read the Introduction

The introduction contains much of the same information as the abstract. However it is expanded upon in this section.It is also important because this is where the author will present the thesis of his/her argument. If this information fits your research needs move on to the next step.




Step 3 - Read the Conclusion 

The conclusion generally summarizes the contents of the article and then provides ideas to expand upon the research. This "expanding upon the research" may be a way for the author to admit to weakness in his argument so if you are looking to criticize the work this would be important information. 


Step 4 - Skim the Article Text

Finally, skim the rest of the article text. You should only stop if you find something interesting or you need more information on an idea you found in the abstract or conclusion.