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Writing 2130F: Communications for Engineers

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Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Research at the university level requires to consult scholarly sources.

How can you determine whether or not a source is scholarly?

General differences between scholarly and popular sources

  Scholarly sources Popular sources
Authors: Experts (scientists, faculty, engineers) Generalists (bloggers, staff writers, and journalists); not always attributed
Audience:  Specialists in the subject area (students, professors and the author's peers, professionals) nonprofessionals, general public 
Examples: Engineering journals, conference proceedings, books from university presses such as Oxford University Press or MIT Press  Wikipedia, CNN.com, CBC.ca; The Globe and Mail, Science Daily, Science News, bestselling books, books from popular publishers like Penguin and Random House
Focus: Specific and in-depth Broad overviews
Language: Dense; includes academic jargon Easier to read; defines specialized terms; more plain language
Format: Almost always include: abstracts (summaries), literature reviews, methodologies, results, and conclusions. For more information check out: Anatomy of a Scientific Article by NSCU Libraries. Varies
Citations: Include bibliographies, citations, and footnotes that follow a particular academic style guide No formal citations included; may or may not informally attribute sources in text
Before publication: Evaluated by peers (other scholars)  Edited by in-house editors or not edited at all
Design: Mostly text, with some tables and charts; very little photography; no advertising Glossy images, attractive design; photo illustrations and advertising are more common
Purpose: Communicating research findings; education Entertainment; news

*adapted from Berkeley Library, University of California.  Evaluating resources: Scholarly & Popular Sources. http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/c.php?g=83917&p=3747680

Peer Review

Evaluating Sources

5 criteria for evaluating sources