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Writing 39C Information Literacy Tutorial - 2019 version

Source Differentiation

You will want to consider many types of information sources as you write your paper, including information written with a scholarly audience in mind as well as information written for the general population. Each type of information serves a different purpose, and has its own benefits and limitations.

This video shows how popular (non-peer-reviewed) and scholarly (peer-revieiwed) sources have different audiences, contexts, and purposes. You should incorporate many types of sources into your Contexts Project paper. 

Popular and Scholarly Sources: The Information Cycle (CSUSB Library) [time=3:57]


"Scholarly vs. Popular"

Often, we are presented with a binary of "scholarly vs. popular" information sources. The reality is that there is a spectrum of types of sources. However, here are some basic things to keep in mind:

  • "Scholarly" = Peer Reviewed. These are academic sources for an academic audience, written by academics, and have undergone a very specific and rigorous process of peer review. They have these characteristics:
    • Purpose: To present original research, often very specific in scope.
    • Language: Formal, academic writing, often using a style determined by the academic discipline.
    • Cited Sources: Essential. May be in the form of a References section, endnotes, or footnotes.
    • Author Information: The author is always listed, and their university or institutional affiliation is also often provided.
  • "Popular" = Non-Peer-Reviewed. These are things written for the general population. Note that "popular" in this context does not imply that it is well-known, well-liked, in demand, etc. It simply means that it has not gone through a peer review process. There are many credible sources that are "popular," including government documents, research reports by institutes, policy papers, investigative journalism, and more. 
    • Purpose: To inform the general population about a topic, issue, or idea.
    • Language: Usually everyday language, although some may be written for a more technical, specialized, or professional audience.
    • Cited Sources: Sometimes, but not always. 
    • Author Information: The author's name is often provided, but not always.