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SOC 325: Project Community Advanced Practicum

(Winter 2022)

Characteristics of Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly ("Popular") Sources


Journal - Scholarly

Magazine - Popular



-Empirical: Detailed report of an original research study

-Review: Summary/synthesis of many studies on a topic

-Theoretical: based on the intellectual tradition of a scholarly discipline

Secondary report or discussion may include personal narrative, opinion, anecdotes.


Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise. Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.


Scholars, researchers, students. General public; the interested non-specialist.


Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires prior knowledge. Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.



Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. Scanty, if any, information about sources. May mention names of experts in text, but no bibliography.

Publication Process

Editorial oversight and peer-reviewed.
May be lengthy time period between submission and publication.
Usually limited to some editorial oversight. 
Often quick publication time frames.


American Sociological Review; Social Forces​
Almost anything with Journal in the title. Usually come with memberships in scholarly societies and are only available in libraries.
Psychology TodayDiscover, news magazines. Almost anything available in a store.

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

How do articles get peer reviewed? What role does peer review play in scholarly research and publication? This video will explain.

Credit: North Caroline State University Libraries

More about Scholarly Article Content Types

Empirical Research Articles

  • Reports of original research studies
    • May use quantitative or qualitative methodologies
  • Published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals

Start by reading the article abstract. Does the author talk about their data and methodology?

Look at the article itself. Most will follow a particular structure:

  • Introduction and Literature Review
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Reference/Bibliography

Example: Burgard, Sarah A. and Jennifer A. Ailshire. 2013. “Gender and Time for Sleep among U.S. Adults.” American Sociological Review 78(1):51–69.


Literature Review Articles

  • Report based on summary and synthesis of the majority of the empirical research studies that have been completed on a topic
  • Published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals
  • Not to be confused with a book review article, wherein the author discusses one or two books. The literature review article will discuss many different scholarly articles on a topic

Start by reading the abstract. Does the author talk about gathering literature and reviewing existing studies?

You can use a review article in your reference list to talk about the overall trends and findings on your topic. 

  • Consider choosing one or more studies discussed in the review article for your own references
    • Look up the studies using the review article's bibliography and entering the citation information into the MGet It MGet It.

Example: Sampson, Robert J., Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon-Rowley. 2002. “Assessing ‘Neighborhood Effects’: Social Processes and New Directions in Research.” Annual Review of Sociology 28(1):443–78.


Theoretical Articles

  • An essay that uses the intellectual tradition of a scholarly discipline, as represented by previously published books and articles, to discuss theory in various ways; e.g., to advance or refine a theory, to analyze and critique a theory, to apply a theory to a particular case, to compare and contrast related theories, etc.
  • Published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals

Example: Jansen, Robert S. 2011. “Populist Mobilization: A New Theoretical Approach to Populism.” Sociological Theory 29(2):75–96.


Other Scholarly Article Types

Other types of articles may also be published in the scholarly literature such as:

  • Editorials and letters to the editor
  • Book reviews
  • Methodological articles (discussing research or statistical methods; approaches to conducting research and analysis)
  • Case studies (reports of a work with a specific individual, group, community, or organization)