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Library Guide for Student Athletes: Popular Sources & Scholarly Sources

McGrath Tutorial on Popular vs Scholarly Sources

What is Peer-Review?


  • Peer-Review is an evaluation of a scientific, academic, or professional work by others working in the same field.
  • For an article to be published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal it MUST pass the Peer-Review process. 
  • The process can be rigorous.
  • In order for an article to pass the Peer-Review Process, the research, methods, sources, and conclusions must all be verified as correct and reliable.

The image below is an example of the Peer-Review Process (Image Credit: Elsevier Publishing) 

Popular vs Trade vs Scholarly



  • Examples of Popular Magazines:
    • Time Magazine
    • The Atlantic
    • The New Yorker.
  • What is a Periodical? A periodical is any publication that is published Regularly (or periodically) Examples include Newspapers, Magazines, Trade Journals, and Scholarly Academic Journals
  • Popular magazines and wesites often include advertisements
  • Popular sources can be subject to bias, political or ethical
  • Popular sources are NOT subject to Peer-Review 
  • Popular sources often include large, full-color pictures



  • Trade Journals are geared specifically to professionals working in a specific field
  • Examples of Trade Journals:
    • AOPA - Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, read mostly by pilots and aviation experts
    • Police Chief - Read mostly by law enforcement officials
    • Forensic Examiner - Read mostly by Forensic Scientists and Forensic Investigators
  • Trade Journals often include product reviews for products used by a professional in a specific field 
  • Trade Journals will include case studies of activities carried out by professionals in a specific field 



  • Scholarly Journal Articles are written by experts who research a particular topic, they have educational and professional credentials to support their experience, and scholarly articles are based on research, science based evidence, and empirical data (statistics, experiments, studies)
  • Examples of Scholarly Journals:
    • Journal of Forensic Sciences
    • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
    • Journal of Crime & Justice
  • Scholarly Journal Articles can often have multiple authors listed with their credentials or University where they work (PhD, MLS, MS)
  • Scholarly Articles usually include an Abstract at the beginning of the article.  An Abstract is a brief synopsis of what the article is about
  • Scholarly Articles usually have a lengthy Reference List at the end to cite the previous research used to support the article's conclusions 
  • Scholarly Articles typically don't include advertisements or large color photos (unless the photos are supporting the research).
  • Scholarly Articles often include graphs, tables, and charts describing the conclusions of a study or experiment

See Image Below: Multiple authors listed with credentials and an abstract is included