Skip to Main Content

Peer Reviewed Literature

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources - Chart

Use the chart below to help you determine if an article is peer-reviewed.  Remember, peer-reviewed journals publish more than just peer-reviewed articles.  They publish editorials, commentaries and other literature that is not peer-reviewed.

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources




Written by: Researchers -- experts such as scientists, physicians, historians.  Most are employed by colleges and universities but not all. Staff writers, journalists, bloggers.  Authors of articles may not always be identified.
Audience: Other experts in the same discipline. Articles are a way of sharing knowledge among peers.  While college students read a lot of peer-reviewed articles, they are actually written to communicate with other other researchers! General readers. These sources can be found on a newsstand or in a bookstore.
Vocabulary/Language Serious, formal, dense. Uses specialized terminology of the profession. No special language. Easy to read.
Quality control: Peer-reviewed. This means other researchers within the same discipline have reviewed the article for quality. Edited by publisher.
Purpose: To communicate research findings and results of studies.  News. Entertainment.
Appearance/Design: Little to no advertising. Charts & graphs. No illustrations or photos.  Mostly text. Glossy, attractive design. Advertising.
Length of article: Long. 10 pages or more is typical. Short. Feature articles may be longer.
Publication frequency: Typically infrequent. Monthly or quarterly publication is common. Daily, weekly, monthly.  Varies by publication.
Cost: Expensive.  Often found in libraries & library databases. Inexpensive, affordable.
Format: Often includes descriptive title, abstract, literature reviews, methodologies, results & conclusions. Each discipline has its own standards for communicating research but all articles include a list of references.  All research is based on prior research. No special format. Typically does not list references although there are some exceptions.

New England Journal of Medicine.

Journal of Health, Population & Nutrition.

Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

The New York Times

The Economist

Prevention Magazine

Psychology Today

People Magazine

National Enquirer


Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

How to use popular sources in your research

Much of the popular press reports on the findings from research studies. You may find many articles that say things like, “Studies show…” or “Researchers have discovered…”

These are great sources of information and in many cases are well written and easy to read. The New York Times Health section and National Public Radio (NPR) do significant reporting in this area, for example.

If you want to use this information for your research it is best to track down the original study, however. That is often fairly easy to do by searching the library databases. The news report often provides information about the study: where it was done, who were the authors, the subject, the date, and even the journal in which it was published. With that information it is fairly easy to find the original study. 

If you need help, ask a librarian.