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Is It Scholarly? Identifying Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources

Is It Scholarly? Identifying Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources

Types of Popular Sources & What to Look For

The following guidelines will help you determine which resources are considered popular:


  • Tend to have a number of advertisements and photographs or images.
  • May be very colorful.
  • Shorter articles than scholarly resources, typically less than five pages and often briefer.
  • May not have standard formatting.

Authors and Editors

  • Authors or creators are not necessarily experts on the topics they are discussing.
  • Authors may be journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers.
  • Authors or creators may not be identified and their credentials may not be included.
  • Typically do not undergo a peer review process like scholarly resources do.

Audience and Language

  • Language used is at a level which the general public will be able to understand.
  • Language is not technical.
  • Language can be emotional, inflammatory, or bias.
  • Created for general audiences.


  • May be difficult to determine where the author or creator is finding their information.
  • May not have supporting evidence for arguments made.
  • Typically do not include citations or a formal reference list.