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ENG 112: Writing and Research in the Disciplines

This Research Guide provides information to help you complete discipline specific research in English 112 classes using resources from the CCCC libraries and online.

Popular versus Scholarly Sources

What's the Deal with Scholarly Articles?

What's in them?

The results of a study, experiment, or any other kind of disciplined scholarly research.

Who writes them?

Scholars: faculty, researchers, laboratory staff, and graduate students.

Helpful hint! Look for a University Affiliation in the author's bio in an article.  If they work at a university or college, they're probably a scholarly author!

Who reads them?

Other researchers in the field, including students just learning about research and professors working on their own areas of study within the field.

When should you use them?

  • When your instructor has required scholarly sources
  • When you need evidence to back up an argument
  • When you want to be sure the information you're using is valid 

What do they look like?

  • length: usually more than 5 pages
  • citations: use appropriate citations and include a works cited list 
  • vocabulary: use technical or discipline-specific language (often called jargon)
  • images: include very few images, mostly charts, tables, and graphs rather than photos
  • journal: title is specific and subject related, pages are not glossy, none or very little advertising


The top ranked scholarly journals in literature available through the library are...

The top ranked scholarly journals in the natural sciences available through the library are...

The top ranked scholarly journals in the Social Sciences available in the library are...

If it's not Scholarly, it might be Popular!

What's in them?

Entertaining or generally informative articles about a variety of subjects.

Who writes them?

Journalists who have conducted interviews or research to learn about the topic, but who are not scholarly experts in the field.

Who reads them?

 A general audience.  The writing should not require specialized expertise to read.

When should you use them?

  • If you need basic facts or background information to get started learning about your topic
  • If you want to understand a very recent current event 
  • For fun!

What do they look like?

  • citations: very rarely include citations, but when they do, the formatting is not correct.
  • vocabulary: use every day language (some more specific popular magazines, like The Economist might use technical jargon, but will often explain or define it when they do).
  • images: lots of pictures
  • magazine: glossy pages and lots of ads

Watch out: Popular magazines cover a lot of subjects, and can be formatted in a variety of ways.  The tips listed above will not be true 100% of the time.  Critical thinking about audience and authorship are important when trying to identify popular articles!


Some high quality popular sources available in the library include...

Library Lingo

Peer Review: The process used to make sure the research in a scholarly article is accurate before it is published.  After an author submits their article to an academic journal, it is sent to other experts in their field (their peers) to be reviewed.  Those experts check to make sure the experiment is sound and the results make sense.  If they agree that the article contains good information, then it can be published.

What is a Scholarly Article?

This video from Coastal Carolina University's Kimbel Library link will open in a new window will help you learn to recognize scholarly articles.

How to tell if something is C.R.A.P.


Scholarly information should be current.

When reading an article, find the date it was published.  In many subjects, anything more than five years old is not considered current.



Information you find should be related to your topic.

Does it...

  • Apply directly to your topic?  
  • Does the whole article apply, or only small parts?

Helpful hint: read the Discussion section first!  This will tell you what the writers concluded based on their study and analysis.  How is it related to the argument you're making?



Is the information reliable?  Can you count on it being true?  

Check for...

  • References and citations
  • Peer-review status
  • Is it consistent with the other information you've found?  If not, does it mention how or why it differs from the other research out there?
  • Is there any chance of bias from the author?


Anyone can share their opinion online--but you're looking for experts!

  • How many authors?
  • What are their credentials (degrees, jobs at universities)?
  • Have they written other articles or books on related subjects?
  • Is there any potential for bias?


Why was the article written?  

Knowing what an author hoped to do or gain by writing and publishing an article tells you a lot about how useful it is in an academic setting.

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the article meant to inform, entertain, persuade, sell, or add to an already existing scholarly conversation?
  • Does the article share the results of a study, experiment, or analysis?


Need a little extra help?

Contact your librarian. 

Or use the links below to get more in-depth help and information.