Writing a Research Paper

Scholarly and/or Popular Sources

When writing an academic paper you may use both scholarly (or 'peer reviewed') and popular sources.  Both have a place in research and how you use them will depend on the content of the paper you are writing.  In most cases you will base your paper on scholarly sources and then, if necessary, augment (add to, support, illustrate) your paper with popular sources.

What is the difference between the two?

Scholarly means written for an academic or research audience and is usually 'peer reviewed' (reviewed prior to publication by content or subject area specialists; i.e. the researcher's subject 'peers'). Prior to publication, a medical journal article on cancer is reviewed by medical and cancer specialists to ensure the research and report meets specific research standards and quality.

Scholarly (or 'peer reviewed') Popular (or not 'peer reviewed')
  • Journal of Biblical Literature
  • Bibliotheca sacra
  • Scottish journal of theology
  • Religion and American culture
  • Scottish Journal of Religious Studies
  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • Journal of Presbyterian history
  • Original research
  • Formal structure
  • Indepth analysis
  • lengthy articles
  • May include an abstract
  • General interest, stories, editorials, opinions,
  • May refer to original research but does not contain original research
  • Shorter articles without formal structure
  • Researchers
  • Professionals (experts in their field of study)
  • Specialists
  • Journalists
  • Staff writers
  • Anonymous
  • Researchers
  • Professionals / Experts
  • Academics
  • Students
  • General public
  • Basic reading level
  • Specialized
  • Scholarly
  • Technical
  • May include graphs, tables, diagrams
  • Non-technical
  • Easily understood
  • Bibliographies
  • Footnotes / Endnotes
  • Not usually, may refer to sources but not provide full citations.
  • Simple
  • "Serious" looking
  • Black and White (little colour)
  • May include graphs, charts and/or tables
  • "Flashy"
  • Illustrated with full colour images
  • Very little
  • Tend to be small, discreet
  • Text only (few images)
  • Specialized content
  • Lots of advertising
  • Full colour