Scholarly vs. Popular Literature

Below are some guidelines for identifying the two types of periodical literature. Please note that not all of the criteria will apply to periodicals in each category. Ask a librarian if you are unsure how to categorize a particular title.

Popular Literature

  • Found in magazines and newspapers. Examples include Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Economist, and New Statesman.
  • Popular literature is written for a general audience, so articles are usually brief and written in language that is easy to understand.
  • The authors of these articles are not always identified.

Scholarly Literature

  • Scholarly journals cover major areas of professional, technical, and scholarly research and are written for an academic audience.
  • The title of the periodical often indicates that it covers a well-defined subject area, e.g. Journal of Third World Studies or East European Quarterly. Often the word Journal is in the title.
  • Articles are often quite lengthy - 10-20 or more pages. Abstracts or summaries are often provided before each article.
  • The articles are written by researchers with a significant amount of knowledge in the subject area. Biographical information is often provided indicating the author's other writings on the same topic.
  • Articles have a clearly defined author or authors. Often the article indicates where the author is working and in what position.
  • Articles have footnotes or endnotes and references that show you the sources used in preparing the articles. Helpful hint: Always check an article's bibliography or footnotes for additional sources on your subject. This is a quick way to find more information.
  • Scholarly journals are published less frequently than popular journals. They are often published quarterly, though they can be published monthly or semi-annually.

Last updated August 29, 2011