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Research Process: Academic, Popular & Trade Publications

an introduction to the research process at a very basic level

Academic Resources

Academic resources such as, Journals, academic books and dissertations run through formal evaluation process before publication.

The peer review process helps to ensure high quality of information and accuracy of results. Peer-review simply means that the manuscript has been reviewed by experts in the field.

Most of the resources for University work should be scholarly research articles. A scholarly journal has additional sections like any other journal: editorials, book reviews, news, letters, etc. These resources are not considered research articles, even though they are published in a scholarly/peer reviewed journal.

Characteristics of scholarly studies:

  • Reference/bibliographic list
  • Defined research question(s)
  • Qualitative, quantitative, or mixed research method
  • Sample(s) gathered from population
  • Measurement instrument to gather data
  • Literature review
  • Inferences made from findings
  • Usually more than a single author
  • Scholarly, academic language
  • Tables and figures of findings

Popular Resources

Popular resources are not typically treated as academic resources; sometimes popular resources are reviewed by a single editor and they are written for a broaden audience.

Popular resources include magazine, newspaper articles, websites, and wikis.

Use popular resources to identify the latest trends within your topic, but do not rely deeply on these types of resources.

Characteristics of popular source articles:

  • Use simple language and short sentences
  • The author uses information from interviews or second-hand sources
  • Sometimes the author is not mentioned, or qualifications are not signaled
  • Usually not included bibliography or references
  • Usually illustrated with colorful photographs

Many databases have a search limiter for magazines/newspapers on the Advanced Search feature.

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Trade Publications

Trade publications are neither academic nor popular; they are resources written for specific industry. These publications tend to publish news, statistics, trends and other information relevant to their industry. Authors can be staff editors, journalists, or academics in the field. Trade publications can be published by trade or professional associations.

Articles may be short and may not include references.

Some databases have a search limiter for trade publications on the Advanced Search option.

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Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

This video explains the difference between scholarly and popular periodical.

Vanderbilt University. (2017, September 8). Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals [Video file]. YouTube.