Chapter 1: Getting started with research

1.3 Popular and scholarly information

Popular information

Popular information is found within publications written for the general public rather than for scholarly audiences. They have not gone through a rigorous review process, and are less technical than scholarly materials. Articles found within popular sources may not include citations; instead they often offer a less-detailed, more surface-level summary of their topic. They might not even list an author. People magazine, Vogue, and Rolling Stone are examples of popular publications. These sources can be helpful if your topic has to do with recent events, popular culture, or hobbies.

Scholarly information

Scholarly information gives you a more in-depth understanding of a topic. This type of information is often found within scholarly books and journal articles. Scholarly books and articles undergo peer review, a rigorous review process by subject experts before publication. They usually contain subject-specific, technical language, and refer to the resources the authors used by including citations. Scholarly materials are often the product of a specific research project and contain information about the methods the authors used to reach their conclusions. These are helpful for projects where it is important to build a strong research-based foundation for your ideas or interpretation.

Peer review

Because scholarly information is something your instructors expect you to use, it’s important to have an understanding of how it’s made. Here is the typical publication process for a peer-reviewed article:

  1. A researcher submits their paper to a journal to be considered for publication.
  2. The journal’s editor reviews the paper and sends it to subject experts for peer review.
  3. Those peer reviewers submit their feedback, including corrections and whether or not the article should be published.
  4. The editor reviews peer reviewers’ comments and sends them to the researcher.
  5. The researcher makes corrections and resubmits their article to the editor.
  6. The editor reviews and (maybe) accepts the corrected article for publication.
  7. If it gets this far, the researcher’s article is published!
Popular Scholarly
written for the general public; language is clear, simple, and direct written for specialists in the field; language is scholarly and often complex
articles may be short and unsigned; when signed, author credentials are usually missing articles are longer and in-depth; author credentials and contact information are clearly listed
most articles are illustrated with photographs; online versions often have videos most illustrations are charts, graphs, or other ways to present data
often no citations, footnotes, references, or bibliographies thorough citations, footnotes and references are required
articles are proofread and copyedited articles are peer reviewed by several subject experts as well as proofread and copyedited
include advertisements for commercial products of all kinds if present, advertising focuses on publishing, professional societies, and conferences tied to the journal topic

Scholarly information can be published in a variety of formats, often determined by the author’s subject area or discipline. Some disciplines prefer to publish research in peer-reviewed journal articles, while other disciplines prefer scholarly books. You might also encounter scholarly papers presented at conferences. It’s quite possible that you could find information on your topic in any of these formats, so you need to be familiar with each.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Library 160: Introduction to College-Level Research by Iowa State University Library Instruction Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.