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Research Skills: Popular versus Scholarly

A step-by-step approach to ensure that you possess the key skills required to find, retrieve and evaluate information on your research topic.

Scholarly versus Popular Information


Scholarly articles are published in journals written by scholars in academic or professional fields and cover various topics. A number of terms are used interchangeably to describe these journals, for example, they may be referred to as academic or peer reviewed or refereed journals. Not all scholarly journals are peer reviewed however.

Popular information is usually published in the magazines and newspapers that are purchased in stores or the bookshop, e.g.Time, Sports IllustratedThe Sowetan, the Mail & Guardian (each aimed at a specific audience), etc. These contain a collection of articles about current events and topics of popular interest.

The Unisa Library subscribes to packages of scholarly print and electronic journals, but keep in mind there is an increasing amount of open access material available. 

It is useful to compare the main characteristics of scholarly and popluar information.



Learning how to determine the relevance and authority of a resource is one of the core skills of the research process.

 You should always try to establish the accuracy, reliability, currency and relevance of your information. 

The comparative criteria will help you determine whether your material meets the standards of quality scholarship and therefore can be used in your research.