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Master of Energy Business: Scholarly sources

This Library Research Guide will introduce library resources relevant to students enrolled in the Master of Energy Business Program

Scholarly vs. Popular

At McFarlin Library we've observed confusion among some students about the difference between scholarly or academic sources of information and popular sources.  For example, professors generally want to see that you've utilized scholarly materials, such as articles published in academic journals, when researching for papers or other assignments, so understanding the distinction is important.  The grid on the right briefly summarizes some of the things to look for when you're trying to determine if an article you've found (either in print or from an online source) is scholarly or popular in nature.

If you're still not sure, even after consulting the grid, then just ask a librarian.

Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Popular Magazines


Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines



Many visuals/Informal


Contains graphs, tables, and charts with few photographs

Contains photographs, illustrations, and other colorful graphics


Sources cited with footnotes and/or bibliographies

Citations or bibliography rarely provided and original sources can be obscure



Scholars or researchers in the field or discipline; intended for scholars or researchers in respective field or discipline

Not always identified

Publication’s staff or journalists; intended for a broad audience


Uses terminology or jargon specific to respective discipline

Simple; easily understood


Informs, reports or makes available original research or experimentation

Entertains or persuades and occasionally utilized to sell products or services


Published by an academic press or professional organization

Published by commercial/trade organizations for profit.





Art Bulletin
Economic Journal
Journal of Marriage and the Family
Modern Fiction Studies

Sports Illustrated


Adapted from: Kennedy, Mary Lynch and William J. Kennedy, eds.  “Chapter Nine:  Writing Research Papers.”  Writing in the Disciplines:  A Reader and Rhetoric for Academic Writers 6th ed.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.  286-332.