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Social Work: Scholarly, Trade & Popular

Welcome to the Georgia State University subject guide for Social Work! Here you can find pointers for identifying high-quality information for your research (as well as how to cite it correctly).

Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Sources

Periodical is a term used to describe any publication that is published multiple times (periodically). Periodicals include materials such as popular magazines, scholarly journals, and newspapers.

It is important to understand the difference between a popular and a scholarly periodical. When you are doing research, most of your sources should be scholarly.

Often popular periodicals are called magazines and scholarly periodicals are called journals. Many times it will be acceptable to use some popular material, but research papers should not be based solely on popular literature.

Criteria Popular Magazine Trade Journal Scholarly Journal
Example

scholarly

Content Secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform. Current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry. In-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher(s) or reviews of original research; very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication.
Author Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise. Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise. Author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise.
Audience General public; the interested non-specialist. Professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist. Scholars, researchers, and students.
Language Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers. Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal. Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area.
Graphics Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs. Photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field. Graphs, charts, and tables; relatively  few advertisements and glossy photographs.
Layout & Organization Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion. Informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge. Structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.
Accountability Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed*; edited for format and style. Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers* or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style.
References Rare. Little, if any, information about source materials is given. Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required. Required. Quotes and facts are verifiable.
Paging Each issue begins with page 1. Each issue generally begins with page 1. Page numbers are generally consecutive throughout the volume.

 

Based on Scholarly vs. Popular Materials by Amy VanScoy, NCSU Library

Evaluating online sources

Evaluating online sources is more challenging because physical factors like graphics are absent.  Some databases allow you to narrow your search to only scholarly periodicals so you can be sure what kind of results you're getting.  If you're not sure, you can also search the Ulrichsweb database for the journal.  Ulrichsweb will list the Document Type as Academic/Scholarly, Trade or Consumer (Popular).

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