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ENGH 101: Composition

General & topic-specific databases and "How To" tutorials. Get started here to find books, locate articles, develop search strategies...and more!

Characteristics for Popular, Scholarly, and Trade Sources

These are general rules of thumb to follow when determining if a source is popular, scholarly, or trade:





Purpose (Intent)

To inform, entertain, or persuade about current events or popular opinion and to make money

To inform, report, or make available original research, promote scholarly communication, or advance knowledge

To provide news, trends, or practical information or examine problems or concerns in a particular field, trade, or industry


General public

Scholars, researchers, and students of specific discipline or field

Practitioners of a particular field, trade, or industry


Professional writers, journalists, freelance writers or creators that deal with a variety of topics regularly

Scholars or researchers with extensive credentials and experience in the specific discipline or field and usually associated with a university or other organization

Professionals or freelance writers or creators with experience in a particular field, trade, or industry

Language (Tone)

Entertaining, non-technical language

Specialized terminology or jargon from the specific discipline or field

Specialized terminology or jargon in the field or industry


Sources rarely cited

Sources always cited

Sources occasionally, but not usually cited


Content not evaluated by experts in the field; often published or produced by commercial organizations

Usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a subject expert or a board of subject experts (peer review); published or produced by a scholarly organization or society (university, association, commercial enterprise, etc.)

Content may be evaluated by experts in the field; often published or produced by a trade association

For information or a printable version of this chart, you can view the University Libraries' Tutorial page.