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SOP 4450 : Psychology of Religion

Is it scholarly or is it popular?

Your professor will often ask you to use scholarly sources for all or most of your research.  What constitutes “scholarly?”  Here are a few tips that might help you make that determination:

Popular Magazines:

  • Often include short articles, often just a few pages
  • May include articles that don’t indicate an author
  • May not provide a bibliography or indicate the origin of the information that they use in the article
  • Are normally written in a language that is very comprehensible to the general public
  • Often include glitzy photos, advertisements, etc.
  • Often published frequently—on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule

Scholarly Journals:

  • Normally discuss philosophical, historical, or experimental research
  • Identifies the author(s) of the article and normally list their academic or institutional affiliations
  • Often contain the following sections or variations thereof:  literature review, methodology, results, discussion
  • Contain a bibliography and/or footnotes
  • Often requires some technical expertise or specialized knowledge to fully comprehend the text
  • Illustrations are research oriented photos, graphs, tables, and charts
  • Are often “peer reviewed” where experts evaluate the validity and methodology of the research before publication

Popular Books:

  • Are normally written in a language that is very comprehensible to the general public
  • Purpose is to entertain or inform the general public
  • May not provide a bibliography or indicate the origin of the information that they use in the book
  • May provide a good number of illustrations

Scholarly Books:

  • Normally discuss philosophical, historical, or experimental research
  • Contain a bibliography and/or footnotes
  • Often includes an index
  • Often requires some technical expertise or specialized knowledge to fully comprehend the text
  • Some publishers tend to focus on scholarly works rather than popular books.  If the book was published by a university press, which may be an indication that the book is scholarly although commercial presses can publish scholarly works as well.

For additional information, see the online learning module on “How to Recognize Scholarly Research” which is available on the “Scholarly resources and search tips” tab on this page.

Online learning modules

Use these brief learning modules to help understand how to search and use scholarly resources effectively.