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WRIT 31300 Teaching/Supervising Writing

Scholarly vs Popular

Criteria Scholarly Article                                                          Popular Article


Authors are scholars and experts in the field. Authors are always named, and their institutional affiliation is given.    

Authors are staff writers or journalists.


Publishers may be university presses or professional associations. Articles may be edited through the peer-review process by scholars in the same field of study.

Publishers are corporations, working for profit.


Articles are longer with a focus on research projects, methodology and theory. Language is more formal, technical, using discipline specific terminology.


Articles may be shorter with a general focus on the topic and written for news or entertainment value.

Sources Cited


Sources are cited and a bibliography or footnotes provided to document the research.

Sources are not usually cited.


Article may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and a bibliography.   

Specific format is not followed.


Audience consists of academics, scholars, researchers, and professionals.

Audience is the general public.

The C. A. R. S. Checklist is another way to evaluate information sources. It asks you to look for Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, and Support before deciding to use or trust an information source.

  • Credibility: Trustworthy source, author’s credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support.
    • Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.
  • Accuracy: Up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy.
    • Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth.
  • Reasonableness: Fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone.
    • Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth.
  • Support: listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied.
    • Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it). 

Source: Robert Harris, Evaluating Internet Research Sources,

There's actually more to this than ads or no ads/references or no references.  There are various sorts of "peer review."   Also some folks would decide whether an article is valuable or not simply based on the reputation of the journal where it is published. One controversial measure of that is journal "impact factor."  Here are some links in case you would like to explore these issues further. 

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

NC State University Libraries created a video to help you determine the credibility of a source.

Evaluating Sources for Credibility from NC State University Libraries on Vimeo.

Video Transcript

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

What is Peer Review? How is it different than an Academic Article? Is it? This NC State University Libraries video answers your questions in 3 minutes!

Peer Review in Three Minutes from NC State University Libraries on Vimeo.

Video Transcript.