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Learn the Differences Between the Types of Sources
Different sources have different audiences and purposes. The sources you select depend on the kind of answer you need. Read the items below to learn about different types of sources, including their purposes, layout, etc.
A Cycle of Revolving Research
What to Look for in a Scholarly Article
Types of Popular & Scholarly Sources
Popular articles (published in print and/or online newspapers, magazines, trade journals, and other sources) are not reviewed by experts but may be extensively researched and/or fact-checked, depending on the publication. Popular articles can be on serious topics. They are written for a general audience but can range in seriousness.
Scholarly articles (published in print and/or online scholarly journals) are reviewed by experts in a process known as peer review before they are published. They are written for other scholars or experts, and, as a result, have complex language and multiple references.
University press books (produced by a university press or academic publishing house) are often scholarly. UP book titles go through an editorial process to ensure quality.
- trade articles
- These articles contain practical information focused on news, trends, or practices aimed at professionals in a specific field or industry experts in a given field. While this type of article is written a bit more formally and may contain some citations, it is still considered a popular article.
- general interest articles
- Some popular sources may focus on serious topics written by either experts or journalists. Articles from these print and online magazine and newspaper sources are called popular because they are aimed at the general population. These tend to be shorter articles which don't include bibliographies. This doesn't make them "bad," but should be used sparingly in evidence-based research papers. They may be very helpful to explore topics.
- sensational articles
- These articles are found in print and online propaganda and gossip magazines and newspapers. They are aimed at gullible audiences and appeal to superstitions and prejudice, often using inflammatory language.
- original research (empirical) articles
- These article are based on an experiment or study. This type of article will have a methodology section that tells how the experiment was set up and conducted, a results or discussion section, and usually a conclusion section. In psychology courses, you are often asked to find empirical articles. Empirical articles are original research articles.
- review articles (literature reviews or systematic reviews)
- These articles are written to bring together and summarize the results/conclusions from multiple original research articles/studies. These types of articles will not usually have a methodology section, and they generally have very extensive bibliographies.
- theoretical articles
- These articles are written to contribute to the theoretical foundations of a field of study. In this type of article, an author will draw upon existing research to form a new theory or explore theories in new ways.
The Information Cycle
Image Created by University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Purpose of a Scholarly Article
- Scholarly articles are published in scholarly journals. Most of these journals are discipline-specific. That's why the library subscribes to so many different databases in different disciplines--over 600! (You can sort them by subject.)
- The purpose of scholarly articles is to share the results of an experiment or investigation with scholars in the field.
- Scholarly articles tend to be very specific, often focusing on the relationships between concepts.
- Some scholarly articles are also peer-reviewed, which means they are reviewed by others experts in the field.
- You can tell an article is peer-reviewed by checking to see if the journal is peer-reviewed.
- Google the journal name to find out from the journal website.
- Databases also have a button you can check mark to limit to peer-reviewed articles.
Note: Keep in mind, not everything is best answered with a scholarly journal article. Consider your type of information need. Is the information you need best answered by a scholarly journal? Government website? Magazine? News? Book?
Anatomy of a Scholarly Article
Scholarly articles typically include:
- bibliographic information that helps you cite the article
- author, title of the article, title of the journal, the year, and volume & issue number
- the author's credentials and affiliation, which can help you figure out how to contact the author
- an abstract, which provides you with a summary of an article
- an introduction, methodology (how the research was conducted), results, discussion, and conclusion
- this structure is typical of scholarly articles in the sciences and social sciences
- notes, references, and/or works cited page, which help readers know where the author obtained their information
Different sources have different audiences and purposes.
- Check out this chart to learn the basic differences between scholarly articles and popular articles.