Skip to Main Content

School of Performance THF 101 Library Instruction

This guide is an updated version of the performance instruction guide

Timeline of Information Creation

What are Scholarly and Popular Sources

Learning Objective: Identify between a scholarly source and a popular source

Watch our video on popular vs scholarly sources:

The Terms: 

"Scholarly" and "popular" are terms used to describe a source's content, purpose, audience and more.

MacLeans Magazine cover with Rob Ford - a popular sourcePopular Sources

  • Include magazines, newspaper articles, and popular books
  • Rarely cite other sources 
  • Are useful for getting ideas for a topic or for background and anecdotal information
  • Are written for a general audience, informal in tone and scope
  • May be short: magazine and newspaper articles are often 200-500 words

Watch out! Magazines that cover academic topics for general audiences are considered "popular" i.e., National Geographic, Scientific American, Psychology Today.


Scholarly Sources

  • Are written by experts: the majority have PhDs
  • Have author(s) associated with universities, research institutions or hospitals
  • Contain original research
  • Cite other sources extensively throughout and contain works cited section
  • Have an audience of other experts and university students studying in the same field
  • Contain academic language and content
  • Are often peer-reviewed

“Peer-Reviewed” Articles 

Peer-reviewed articles are scholarly sources that have undergone a review process before being published. Experts in a particular field of study submit their original research in the form of an article to a journal publisher. Before it can be published, it will be evaluated and critiqued by researchers and experts in the same field; hence, reviewed by their peers.

Remember: your topic is part of a bigger conversation:

Scholarly authors are already talking about your topic - cite their work to prove your own argument.

How to Evaluate your Sources

Evaluating your Sources with the CRAAP Test


C = Currency: 

When was the information published? Is it up to date?

R = Relevance

Is the information what you're really looking for? Who is the material written for: academics, professionals, students, or the general public?

A = Authority:

 Who published, wrote, or edited the information? Is the author an expert on the topic?

A= Accuracy: 

Is the information reliable and accurate? Do other sources verify this information?

P = Purpose: 

What is the purpose of the information? Is it biased to one point of view?


For more info Try our Handout - the PARCA Test (CRAAP) (PDF)  (Accessible Version)

*Emoji courtesy of

Using Popular and Scholarly Sources in your Essay

Why we use scholarly sources

Learning Objective: Understand why scholarly peer-reviewed articles are used in university-level research

Your professor is likely to ask you to use scholarly articles for your paper because:stick man with chalkboard with word- WHY?


  • Scholarly articles are the agreed-upon method of disseminating scholarly research in university. Your own paper should model their style and prose
  • Scholarly articles require that authors document the sources of facts, ideas, and methods they used to arrive at their insights and conclusions


There are times when popular sources are appropriate. Popular sources, such as magazines and newspapers, are very useful for current commentary on a topic or issue.  Usually you can use a few popular sources along with your scholarly sources, but always follow the guidelines/instructions of your assignment. 


Remember to ask critical questions about the “authority” of your source

At the university level, you need to be critical about who wrote your source and its content. You understand that there are authorized forms of information for discipline or career specific situations (like peer-reviewed journals).   


Remember the type of source matters in university

Scholarly sources strive for information quality and accuracy. You understand that different types of formats (a book vs. a tweet) will affect the quality of information.

Popular vs Scholarly Quiz