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ANTH 331 Disaster Archaeology

Scholarly Sources vs. Popular Sources


  • The authors of scholarly books and journals usually have academic credentials and it is common for their academic affiliation to be provided on the publications they author.
  • Many scholarly articles are organized into formal categories such as: abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, conclusion.
  • The writing style for both scholarly books and articles tends to be neutral and factual.
  • The audience is other researchers or students in the discipline, not the general reader; so, the writing is technical and uses specialized vocabulary.
  • The author will reference other scholarly sources to support his/her analysis and conclusions, and these citations will be provided in a bibliography at the end of the article or book.
  • Scholarly articles often report on findings that will advance that field of research -- that is, they are primary sources (see box below for more information).
  • To assure quality and accuracy, scholarly articles are usually peer-reviewed before being accepted for publication.
  • Scholarly books and journals are usually published by reputable and respected publishers.

In general, you can feel very confident about the quality and accuracy of information that you find in scholarly sources. However, scholarly sources can be challenging to use because the vocabulary and concepts are technical and specialized.


  • The intent of popular writing is to impart information to general readers in a way that will be understandable.
  • The writing style is informal and uses vocabulary that is easily understood.
  • The credentials and qualifications of the author are usually not provided (the author may be a journalist or professional writer, but not have any particular academic expertise or affiliation).
  • Popular articles and books rarely reference other sources.
  • There is no peer review process, but there may be fact-checking.
  • Popular writing may be neutral, but may also be exaggerated and sensationalized (to sell copies or advertising space).
  • Popular writing may also be one-sided (to appeal to a particular audience).

It is not as easy to judge the quality and accuracy of information you find in popular sources (compared to scholarly sources). Your best bet is to stick with reputable, mainstream publications. Watch out for information that has been hyped or sensationalized.