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American Literature I: Beginnings through 1865

Characteristics of Popular Sources

Length of Articles



• Short (1-5 pages)




• General, non-academic, non-specialized audience




• Journalists, rather than researchers or specialists in a given field



• None




• Published frequently (i.e., weekly, biweekly or monthly)




• Many photographs or other illustrations

• Extensive commercial advertising




• Variety of topic/subject areas (Time, New Yorker, National Review)


• Single subject area with the intention of informing or entertaining a general audience. Sports Illustrated or Vogue are good examples.




• Use conventional/conversational language, as opposed to a specialized vocabulary

Characteristics of Scholarly Sources




• Lengthy (5-50 pages)



• Intended for an academic or scholarly audience




Publish articles written by academics, specialists or researchers in the field (as opposed to articles written by journalists reporting on or synthesizing research).

• Are often produced under the editorial supervision of a professional association (e.g., Journal of the American Medical Association) or by a scholarly press (e.g., Elsevier, Pergamon).

• Articles go through a rigorous review process (sometimes called ‘refereed’ or ‘peer-reviewed’) by experts in the field before they are selected for publication.



• Always present at the end of the article, chapter or book. 

• Sometimes called "References", "Reference List", "Works Cited", or "Endnotes" depending on publication style. Allows the reader to consult the same material that the author used in his/her research.




• Often publish reviews of the literature.

• Charts or tables

• Rare use of news photos and other types of graphics unless the research is visual in nature, such as art, design or architecture.

• Little or no advertising

Subject Coverage



• Generally confined to a single, very specific aspect of a subject area (e.g., music theory, European political science, film studies, language development).