Q. What's the difference between a scholarly and a popular article?


The table below represents typical attributes of popular and scholarly articles, although you may find exceptions. 


Scholarly / Academic            

Example covers




professional writers or journalists

researchers and experts in a field


general public

students, faculty, and other scholars

Reading level / language

easily understood by most adult readers

technical, discipline-specific; often difficult to understand by readers new or unfamiliar with the field

Topic focus

news and current events, popular culture, etc.

targeted research


short, e.g. 1-5 pages

longer, e.g. 10-20 pages


glossy pages with photos and full-color illustrations

graphics limited to tables, charts, and scientific illustrations


few to none

full list of citations for sources used

Review process prior to publishing

reviewed by editors

peer-reviewed (“refereed”) by other experts in the field

Note: Book reviews and editorials, regardless of source, are not usually considered scholarly.


If you find an article but aren't sure whether it scholarly (including peer reviewed) or popular, you can look it up in library database Ulrich’s Periodical Directory. Search by journal title (not by article) and look for the peer review/refereed icon: . Also look for “Journal” under Serial Type and “Academic / Scholarly” under Content Type. If you have any further questions regarding a specific source’s academic qualifications and whether it would be accepted for your assignment or research, you may want to check with the professor who will be reviewing your work.


The following video tutorial further explains key differences between these types of resources:


  • Last Updated Jul 18, 2017
  • Views 38
  • Answered By Teal Smith

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