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INTL 4390: European Politics (Mudde): Academic vs. Popular Sources

What articles are acceptable to use?

Academic Sources

For your paper, you will have to support your theories about your topic with academic research articles instead of more prevelent popular sources.

"Academic" and "popular" are terms used to describe a source's content, purpose, audience and more. Popular sources are useful for getting ideas for a topic or for background and anecdotal information. They written for a general audience, and use non-technical language.

Typically, however, you should support your arguments by citing scholarly academic articles, which contain original research written by experts.  Peer reviewed research consists of articles written by scholars, usually describing a study or experiment, and published in scholarly/academic journals for other researchers to read.  Before published, the articles are vetted by other scientists to ensure accuracy and adherance to scientific and ethical standards.

Watch the video below for more information about telling the difference between something from a scholarly journal and a popular publication.

Popular vs. Academic Chart

If you're not sure of an article you've found for your paper, check it against this chart to determine its appropriateness.

Type of Periodical Scholarly Journal Popular Magazine or Newspaper

Original Research

In-Depth Analysis

Current Events / Popular topics / Interviews 
Not original research by the author
Writing Level Technical language 
Assumes college education
Simple, elementary language 
Assumes only 8th grade education!
Authors Researchers, Academics 
Experts in the subject they are writing about
Not subject experts
Sources Almost always has a list of Works Cited 
Extensive documentation
Rarely documents sources 
Documentation vague (e.g. "A study was done...")
Published By Scholarly societies, University Presses Commercial publishers
Pictures  Few or no photographs 
Includes charts or tables 
Many photographs and pictures 
Examples Sociological Review 
Journal of Asian Studies 
Journal of Philosophy
People Weekly 
Sports Illustrated 
New York Times 
Denver Post
Length Tends to be longer Tends to be shorter

Peer-Review vs Academic

  • Peer review describes a process for examining and evaluating primary research.
  • Academic is a more general term that can refer to journals that publish peer-reviewed articles, but may also refer to books published by university presses.

How does peer review work?

A journal has a group of experts (peers) check submitted primary research articles for problems in accuracy, logic, methodology, etc.  The author receives feedback and may be able to make corrections, or the article may be rejected. If the research is original, valuable, and meets the scope of the journal, it is published. Authors are not paid, as in commercial magazines or "trade journals."

Are all articles in an academic journal peer-reviewed research articles?

No. Journals also publish other items. Some article types are listed below. While these articles can be very important and reputable, they cannot be considered primary research articles undergoing peer-review. If you have access to our databases (on-campus or off-campus with your MyID), click for examples.

  • Information/Opinion Column: Gives advice and information. Often targeted to clinicians. Usually in first person (ex: I noted that...) 
  • Book review/essay: Much longer than popular books reviews, they usually compare similar works, and contain a detailed bibliography -- example
  • Literature review: Surveys research done in a field, drawing conclusions and anticipating trends but does not give detailed methodology or data on any one research project -- example
  • Reader Letters/Response Articles/Errata: Sometimes people respond to an article published in a previous issue. These may be informal letters, or they may be very structured debates that cite other literature. There may be cases in which someone reports an error or corrects misprints of data. A letter may also describe recent research, but the letter has not gone through the peer review process -- example

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