4.4 Side by Side Types of Sources Comparison

Now let’s take a look at each of the source types and their characteristics side by to side.

Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Characteristics Comparison
Scholarly Trade Popular
Authors Written by experts in the field. Author is usually a professional in the field. Author is usually a staff writer, journalist, or editor.
Audience Written for scholars, researchers, and students in a specific field. Written for people who work in the field or who have a very strong interest in the subject. Written for the general public.
Language The writing is often a very high level and will include discipline specific terminology or jargon. Articles may include jargon, but they will not be as high level as scholarly articles. Articles are easy to read and understand by most people.
Content & Purpose The content focuses on a specific topic. Original research articles report on an experiment or study conducted by the authors. Review articles summarize or critique previous research articles. Trade articles provide information about news, trends, and practical information for people who work in the field. Popular articles may be read for entertainment or informational purposes.
Review Process Many (but not all) scholarly journals utilize a peer-review process to ensure the quality, relevance, and importance of each article is evaluated prior to its publication. Not all articles make it through the peer-review process! The peer-reviewers are made up of other experts within the field. Articles have an editorial staff who may be professionals in the field. Most trade publications do not have a peer-review process.  You can check their website for more information.


Articles are reviewed by an editorial staff looking for spelling or grammatical errors. Newspapers may utilize fact checkers who verify information  You can check the website for each publication for more info.
Structure & Format Many scholarly research articles will follow a similar format and may look similar to a lab report. The article will include sections such as: abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. Other types of scholarly articles such as review articles may not have a specific format (although some do), so it is important to look for other identifying characteristics. Trade articles do not usually follow any specific format and will look similar to magazine articles. Photos and images are common. Popular articles do not usually follow any specific format. Photos and images are common.
References References to works cited are always included and it is usually a long list. References may or may not be included. If sources are cited, it is usually a very short list of sources. A list of references may or may not be included.
Example Articles Bird, Robert C., “Four-Day Work Week: Old Lessons, New Questions Symposium: Redefining Work:
Implications of the Four-Day Work Week – The Four-Day Work Week: Views from the Ground” (2010). Connecticut Law Review. 66.
Zelinsky, Peter. “Is It Time for a Four-Day Work Week?Modern Machine Shop, vol. 87, no. 8, Jan. 2015, p. 22. EBSCOhost. “Spain Is Going to Trial a 4-Day Work Week. Could the Idea Go Mainstream Post-Pandemic?” Time, vol. 197, no. 13, Apr. 2021.