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Research Skills

Information to help students find, write, evaluate and reference information for their assignments.

What is scholarly information?

You will often be required to use scholarly information in your assessments. Scholarly information is written by an expert in the field, for people who are also experts in that field, and  is an authoritative source of information. Scholarly articles are generally published in journals, and often go through a formal peer review process.

Scholarly articles will generally include the following:

  • Details of the author. In many cases this will include a brief biography of the author so that you can assess their expertise in the field. Where funding has been provided for the project, the sources will also usually be identified.
  • An abstract summarising the article
  • A bibliography or reference list showing details of works the author has referred to in the body of the article. Footnotes may also be included
  • Technical or specialised language relating to the area of the work

 Examples of scholarly information sources include  academic journals, conference papers and  theses.

What is popular information?

Popular information is written at a more general level. It will often be written by journalists rather than experts in the field,  at a level that can be understood by the general population. Popular information can help you understand a topic, but does not have the same level of authority, depth or academic rigour as scholarly material.

Popular articles generally:

  • appear in magazines as opposed to journals. 
  • don't include an abstract, or reference list
  • use everyday language.
  • may not include author details, and if they do, include limited or no biographical detail.

A newspaper is an example of a popular information source, as are magazines such as New Scientist, Australian Geographic and Home Beautiful.


Comparing scholarly, trade and popular articles

The link below takes you to a handy chart comparing scholarly, trade and popular articles

Scholarly vs Popular periodicals

For more information, watch this video from Vanderbilt University:

What is peer review?

Many academic journals go through a process called 'peer review'. This means that when an article is submitted to the journal, it will be sent to other experts in that field who will review it for accuracy and bias. The article will only be published if it passes this review process. Selecting 'peer reviewed' journals for your research is a great way to ensure that you are sourcing quality material.

Most of the Library's subscription resources, including those you can search with the  Discovery catalogue, contain a combination of academic/scholarly and more general/popular resources. Generally, there will be a box in the search limiters that you can check to limit your search to peer reviewed material. The Science Direct database contains only peer reviewed material.

Peer review in 3 minutes

Want to know more about how the peer review process works? Watch this video from NCSU library.

(This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.)