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CJA & MPA Graduate Program: Library Research Introduction: What are Scholarly Sources?

CJA & MPA Graduate Program: Library Research Introduction

Contents: What is a Scholarly Source?

This guide discusses the difference between the magazines and newspapers (periodicals) you see at the grocery store and the scholarly (peer-reviewed periodicals) you are going to use for your Literature Reviews

  • Go through each part of this guide carefully
  • Watch the tutorial video at the end
  • Answer the questions in the short quiz 

Popular vs Trade vs Scholarly


POPULAR SOURCES (General Interest Magazines):

  • 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 (Professional Publications):

  • 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


McGrath Tutorial Video on Popular vs Scholarly Sources





Hierarchy of Credibility of Sources

Image inspired by Purdue Libraries Libguide: "A hierarchy of Credibility of 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) 

Short Quiz

Question 1.) How does scholarly research infiltrate our daily lives? 

A. Helps us write research papers in college

B. Creates and influences policies and science methods that attempt to build a safer, stronger, healthier environment

C. Studies in scholarly journals are often reported on in news & general interest magazines that influence how we make decisions and live our daily lives

ALL THREE: (A), (B), & (C). Scholarly research affects our lives in many facets and influences us even if we are not reading the actual peer-reviewed article

Question 2.) Which one of these publications would be the MOST expensive for one issue? 

A. The New Yorker

B. The New York Times

C. The Journal of Criminal Justice

(C) - The New Yorker is $9.99 per issue. The New York Times is $6.00 per issue. Journal of Criminal Justice is $185.00 per issue

Question 3.) Which review process looks deeply into the methods of a study, along with the research used in the study?

A. Editorial Review

B. Peer-Review

C. Administrative Review

(B) - Peer-Review (Refereed) is the process of finely checking an article for publication in a scholarly journal to make sure the science, methods, research, and conclusion is accurate and reliable