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rFLA 100: Lifespan Development: Popular vs Scholarly

Information sources, and especially periodicals (magazines, journals, newspapers, and other regular publications) can be classified as popular or scholarly. Both types have merit, but they have different advantages suited to different research needs.  The following chart points out the distinctions between popular and scholarly periodicals.



Broad range of topics, presented in shorter articles

Specific, often narrowly focused topics in lengthy, in-depth articles

Articles offer overview of subject matter; reportage, rather than original research; sometimes contain feature articles and reports on current social issues and public opinion

Articles often contain previously unpublished research and detail new developments in field

Intended to attract a general readership without any particular expertise or advanced education

Intended for specialist readership of researchers, academics, students, and professionals

Written by staff (not always attributed) or freelance writers using general, popular language

Written by specialists and researchers in subject area, usually employing technical, subject-specific language and jargon

Edited and approved for publication in-house (not peer-reviewed)

Critically evaluated by peers (fellow scholars) in field for content, scholarly soundness, and academic value

Articles rarely contain references or footnotes and follow no specific format

Well-researched, documented articles nearly always follow standard format: abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography/references

Designed to attract eye of potential newsstand customers: usually filled with photographs or illustrations, printed on glossier paper

Sober design: mostly text with some tables or graphs accompanying articles; usually little or no photography; negligible, if any, advertising; rarely printed on high-gloss paper

Examples: Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Psychology Today

Examples: Journal of Applied Psychology, American Sociological ReviewJournal of Popular Culture, Sustainable Agriculture

Structure of a Scholarly Article