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WRIT 015 (Debelius): Writing & Culture Seminar

Spring 2022

Popular and Scholarly Sources

Why does it matter?

  • In your research project or paper, you need to show how your ideas relate to those of others.
  • In most cases, you'll want to use articles from scholarly journals to support your arguments because these are written by experts, include references you can consult, and have been carefully edited.
  • Sometimes, depending on your topic, you'll need to use articles from popular magazines. Be sure to check with your professor or instructor that the sources you're using are acceptable for the assignment's requirements.
  • Finally, whatever sources you use, evaluate them carefully: Does the author show bias and does it affect his/her conclusions? Is the information accurate? Does the author support his/her arguments with credible evidence?

A Quick Comparison

Scholarly Sources Popular Sources
ExamplesJournal of Politics, Philosophical Quarterly, World Politics, Human Biology Examples: People, Time, Newsweek, Vogue, National Geographic
Written by experts: often professors Written by non-specialists
Explore theories, introduce new ideas, present research findings, and add to the body of research in a particular discipline Cover news and current events in a field; report on news of general interest; write profiles of people, places, or events; and express political opinions
Articles often go through a peer review process: independent experts evaluate the article before it's published Articles are reviewed by an editor, but not by a panel of experts
Articles have footnotes and bibliographies Articles may or may not mention sources in the text
Minimal advertising, graphics, or illustrations unless relevant to the article (for example, art journals) Extensive advertising, lavish photos, colorful cover to market the magazine

Evaluating Sources

Criteria Questions to Ask
Questions to ask when evaluating sources.
Agenda What was the author’s purpose? Does he or she have a particular bias?
Credentials Who is the author? Does he or she have expertise or certain qualifications?
Citations Does the author cite the work of others? What types of sources are cited?
Oversight Does someone have to approve the publication? Was the information reviewed or refereed prior to publication?
Relevance Does the source fit your needs? Does it meet the requirements of your assignment?
Date How recent is the source? Has it been updated?
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to find additional sources that verify the information you found on a website to make sure that the information provided is true and accurate.


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