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*Humanities: Interpreting Secondary Sources: Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly and Popular Sources

Often your history instructor will tell you that your sources must be scholarly rather than popular. What does that mean, and how can you tell the difference?

Scholarly Articles/Journals

  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars
  • Use scholarly or technical language
  • Tend to be longer articles about specific research
  • Include full citations for sources
  • Are peer reviewed or refereed (articles are reviewed by an editor and other scholars in the field before being published)
  • Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals
    • However, remember that book reviews can point you to useful secondary-source books!




Popular Articles/Magazines

  • Are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience
  • Use language easily understood by general readers
  • Articles not evaluated by experts in the field but by editors on the staff
  • Rarely give full citations for sources
  • Shorter articles giving a broader overview of topics
  • Newspapers are considered as popular magazines



Historians commonly use popular magazines and newspapers as PRIMARY SOURCES

rather than as secondary sources.

adapted and used with permission from the University of Arizona Library

Is This Book Scholarly?

Scholarly Books

  • Will be based on interpretation of primary sources and other secondary sources
  • Will include citations (in the form of references, footnotes, and/or endnotes)
  • Are often published by university presses (examples: Oxford University Press; University of Georgia Press, etc.)
  • Will include an index