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ENG 1050 Introduction to College Writing (S.Smith)

This guide can help you become an effective user of ideas and information.

What's the difference?


Journalism Practice journal cover, black with red text.


Cover of Rolling Stone magazine with the musical artist The Weeknd on the cover.


B & C trade cover with the headline Who's Got the News Mojo?

Purpose - why are they published?
To disseminate original research and scholarly discussions among scholars in a discipline.   To inform and entertain about current events and popular culture. To advance a profession or industry; to inform and share info about news, trends, technologies, best practices, and products for a specific industry or profession.   
Audience - who reads them?
Scholars, researchers, and students within a specific discipline.   General public. Members of a profession or trade.
Author - who writes them?
Scholars, professors, researchers, and professionals.  Their credentials are usually identified.     Journalists.  Author may not be named.   Professionals in the field; maybe be a journalist with subject expertise.  
Publisher - who publishes or produces them?
Scholarly book or journal publishers, university press, or professional association (National Communication Association - NCA) Usually commercial groups. Usually associations or commercial groups.
Content - what do they look like? Are they readable by many?

Mostly text; may have black and white figures, graphs, tables, or charts; few advertisements.  

Highly specialized; includes specialized vocabulary and jargon that is readily understood by researchers in the field, but not an average reader.  

Extensive list of references at the end

Some text; glossy, color photographs; easy to read layout; lots of advertisements.  

General language is used; articles may be read and understood by most people.

Some text; photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.

Specialized; includes jargon that is best understood by professionals in the field.  

What are their Advantages?
  • Articles are usually evaluated by experts before publication (peer reviewed or refereed).
  • References, footnotes, or bibliographies support research and point to further research about the topic.  
  • Authors describe methods and provide data to support research results.  
  • Written for everyone.
  • Timely coverage of current events and popular topics.
  • Some have editors who fact check and approve the content before publication.
  • Timely coverage of industry trends.
  • Sometimes contain short bibliographies.
  • Shorter articles that are informal and provide practical tips and tricks.  
What are their Disadvantages?
  • Specialized vocabulary that can be difficult for non-specialists to read.
  • Research and review process takes time; not as useful for current events and technologies.  
  • Scholarly journals are expensive and may not be readily available.
  • Articles selected by editors who may know little about the topic.
  • Authors usually do not cite their sources.
  • Quick deadlines mean content review is limited; Stories may come from other sources (ex. wire services) making it difficult to review the content.
  • Published to make a profit; the line between informing and selling may be blurred.  
  • Not peer reviewed, although author is usually a professional in the field.
  • Use of specialized terminology may limit readability. 
  • Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge not rigorous research.  
  • Articles may be biased to support an industry or company.

Credits:  Content on this page was adapted from LMU|LA's Scholarly, Popular & Trade Publications, VC|UHV's Finding Scholarly or Peer Reviewed Articles: Scholarly vs Popular  and UW's Savvy Info Consumer.

Reference Books

Reference materials are good starting points for research projects because they can provide background or introductory information on a topic. 

  • Reviewing reference resources (like encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, etc.) can also provide you with terminology or additional keywords to use in further searches
  • Use the bibliography to find other, more specific materials on a your topic.

Check out our various online reference resources on the "Get Started" tab. 

General Books

Books are a great way to find comprehensive information on a topic. Books tend to be broader in scope, with chapters devoted to narrower subjects. 

  • If you are searching for your topic and don't see any results, try searching for a broader subject related to your topic. 
    • Ex.  juvenile justice system instead of adult sentences for juvenile offenders
  • Books take significantly longer to publish than newspapers, magazines, or journals, so keep that in mind if you are looking for the most current information on a topic. 

To search for books and ebooks, click on the "Find Books, Ebooks, and DVDs" tab. 

Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles are a great resource for finding in-depth, current information on a topic. Scholarly articles have a more narrow focus than books, so you can try searching for more specific topics. 

  • This type of article may also be called peer-reviewed articles, or refereed articles
  • Scholarly articles are one of the most common types of sources your professors will require you to include in your research. 
  • Scholarly articles are found in journals, which you can search for in a database. 

The McQuade Library subscribes to over 220 databases that range from general to subject-specific.  For more information about finding articles or searching in the database, click on the "Find Articles" tab. 

Magazines, Newspapers, Websites

Magazines, newspapers and news websites are great sources for finding general, current information on a topic. Articles published in these types of sources are intended for a general audience, which can be useful for background information or an overview of a complex current-event topic. 

If you are going to use information from magazines, newspapers, or websites in your paper be sure to evaluate your sources carefully to ensure that you are only using the best quality. For more information about evaluating sources, click on the "Evaluate Sources" tab.