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2-Types of Sources

Popular, Professional, & Scholarly

We can also categorize information by the expertise of its intended audience. Considering the intended audience—how expert one has to be to understand the information—can indicate whether the source has sufficient credibility and thoroughness to meet your need.

There are varying degrees of expertise:

Popular – Popular newspaper and magazine articles (such as The Washington Post, the New Yorker, and Rolling Stone) are meant for a large general audience, are generally affordable, and are easy to purchase or available for free. They are written by staff writers or reporters for the general public.

Additionally, they are:

  • About news, opinions, background information, and entertainment.
  • More attractive than scholarly journals, with catchy titles, attractive artwork, and many advertisements but no footnotes or references.
  • Published by commercial publishers.
  • Published after approval from an editor.
  • For information on using news articles as sources (from newspapers in print and online, broadcast news outlets, news aggregators, news databases, news feeds, social media, blogs, and citizen journalism), see News as a Source.

Professional – Professional magazine articles (such as Plastic Surgical Nursing and Music Teacher) are meant for people in a particular profession, and are often accessible through a professional organization. Staff writers or other professionals in the targeted field write these articles at a level and with the language to be understood by everyone in the profession.

Additionally, they are:

  • About trends and news from the targeted field, book reviews, and case studies.
  • Often less than 10 pages, some of which may contain footnotes and references.
  • Usually published by professional associations and commercial publishers.
  • Published after approval from an editor.

Scholarly – Scholarly journal articles (such as Plant Science and Education and Child Psychology) are meant for scholars, students, and the general public who want a deep understanding of a problem or issue. Researchers and scholars write these articles to present new knowledge and further understanding of their field of study.

Additionally, they are:

  • Where findings of research projects, data and analytics, and case studies usually appear first.
  • Often long (usually over 10 pages) and always include footnotes and references.
  • Usually published by universities, professional associations, and commercial publishers.
  • Published after approval by peer review or from the journal’s editor.

See Scholarly Articles as Sources for more detail.

Tip: Source Locator

Our Source Locator can help you see where sources of every audience expertise level (popular, professional, and scholarly) are located.

Activity: Popular, Professional, or Scholarly?

Open activity in a web browser.


Creative Commons License
Popular, Professional, & Scholarly by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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