General Interest or Scholarly?

Why It Matters

Books, articles and media are published for different reasons and for different target audiences. In the library, we frequently divide sources into two groups: general-interest and scholarly. Two articles might be on the same topic, but a general-interest article will be greatly different than a scholarly one.


  • Documentary film versus Hollywood movie
  • Novel versus textbook
  • Blog versus online newspaper

Popular and Scholarly Sources (5:30 minute video from CLIP, closed captioning available)

How to Tell the Difference

All Formats

Area General Interest / Popular Scholarly / Academic
  • Give information, entertain, promote a point of view or sell something
  • Report original research or experiments
  • Provide new analysis of previous research, experiments or writing
  • Moderate reading level
  • May use sensational or provocative title
  • Technical language used by experts
  • Written for scholars, professionals or students
  • Author name may be omitted
  • Usually written by non-experts (journalists, editorial staff, or freelance authors)
  • Degrees or qualifications not listed
  • Author's name listed
  • Written by expert in the field
  • May list position (job title), education and degrees
  • Rarely has citations or bibliography
  • Sources are cited, has bibliography


Area General Interest / Popular Scholarly / Academic
  • Shorter length
  • Often have pictures and advertisements
  • Longer length
  • Little or no advertising
  • May include: abstract, explanation of methods, graphs, statistics, charts, analysis and conclusion
Peer Review
  • Not evaluated by experts in the field
  • Evaluated by other experts in the field
  • Called peer-reviewed, scholarly or refereed journals
  • Usually published daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Usually published monthly or quarterly
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