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Social Work 3300 - Human Behavior and the Social Environment (CTW): Judging Sources (Scholarly, Trade, Popular)

Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Sources

There are three categories of publication: popular sources (which include short articles written by journalists or scholars for the general public), trade sources (which include short articles written by professionals in a field for other professionals in that field), and scholarly sources (which include research studies by professionals in a field for other professionals in that field).

It is important to understand the difference between a popular and a scholarly source. When you are doing research, most of your sources should be scholarly. Empirical studies will only appear in scholarly publications.

This guide will help you understand the differences between popular, trade, and scholarly publications.

Criteria Popular Magazine Trade Journal Scholarly Journal
Example

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