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Regent University - Library

International Student Resources & Services: Scholarly versus Popular

This LibGuide was created to help International Students learn about Regent University Library resources and succeed in conducting library research.

Types of Resources

There are three types of sources: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

Primary sources are original sources on which other research is based, including results from experiments published in journal articles.  Examples of primary sources are:

  • Diaries, letters, photographs, or autobiographies
  • Interviews from legal proceedings, or personal, telephone, and email messages
  • Original documents such as birth certificates, trial transcripts, 
  • Proceedings of meetings, conferences or symposia
  • Survey research, data sets from polls, surveys or census
  • Works of literature and art, including poetry, fiction, plays, paintings, drawings, scultptures or written music

Secondary sources describe or analyze the original sources and are often produced by researchers, journalists or other professionals.  They include:

  • Biographies
  • Commentaries, or specialized dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journal Articles, Monographs, Textbooks

Tertiary sources list, compile, digest or index primary or secondary sources. They include:

  • Indexes
  • Abstracts
  • Bibliographies

Scholarly or Popular?

Now you know that there are primary, secondary and tertiary sources.  However, does the article need to be scholarly or popular? 

Learning what type of resource to use for your assignments is crucial to your success.  If you are doing research you will definitely want to choose scholarly articles.  Do you know the difference between scholarly and popular articles?

Scholarly articles

  • Lengthy; include references, footnotes or bibliographies
  • Author(s) report original research or experiments
  • Academic, professional readership
  • May be illustrated with graphs or charts
  • May not have color pictures or ads
  • Titles like "Journal of the" or "Journal for the"

Popular articles

  • Short, terse
  • Rarely footnoted
  • References seldom listed
  • Written by staff or freelancers
  • Inform, entertain general public
  • Glossy/color photographs, ads
  • Sold in stores, newsstands, etc

Which would you use?

Both sources, "scholarly" and "popular" can often meet your need for a basic research paper.  However, for a more scholarly research paper, you will most likely need to use scholarly sources from the library databases. What kind of journals would you consider to be scholarly or popular?  Take a look at the journals below.

Images of scholarly and popular journals