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COM357: Emotions and Communication: Evaluating Sources

Critical Reading

What's the difference between scholarly and popular again?

You've heard there's a difference between scholarly and popularly sources. Check out this sock puppet theatre video to give you an idea of the difference.

Scholarly Sources vs Popular Sources from Kimbel Library on Vimeo.

That's not all though. Don't forget to think about who wrote the articles and who they are written for. Scholarly articles are written by...wait for it...scholars. And by scholars, we mean professors, researchers, and scientists: people who are experts in their fields. So who writes popular articles? For the most part it's journalists, whose expertise is usually writing, not the content area they are writing about.

As for audience, scholarly articles are written for other experts in the field and students in those areas. This means you'll sometimes get words or specialized terms that you may not know. Don't be afraid to look them up. Popular sources are written for everyone, so you get generalized language that might be a bit less specific.

Determine credibility!

There are some things to consider when determining source credibility. Try using the CRAAP method.*

  • Currency: Is the information up-to-date? If a web source, do the links work & has it been updated recently?
  • Relevance: Did you consider many sources before selecting those you'll use?
  • Authority: Is the author a professor/researcher in communication, psychology, education, business, or a field related to the topic? Does he/she have credentials that qualify them to write about this? Who is the sponsoring organization?
  • Accuracy: Is the information accurate?  Did you compare it with other sources you have located?
  • Purpose: What is the author's intended goal?  Trying to provide research results to other researchers (scholarly)?  Trying to sell something (popular)? Trying to summarize research for the general public (popular)?  Is the audience the general public or scholars/students?

Remember, popular treatments of topics by scholars are fine to use too!

*Developed by Meriam Library, Cal State Chico.

Information Cycle

The Day of an Event Television, Social Media, and the Web  The who, what, why, and where of the event Quick, not detailed, regularly updated Authors are journalists, bloggers, social media participants Intended for general audiences The Day After an Event Newspapers  Explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear More factual information, may include statistics, quotes, photographs, and editorial coverage Authors are journalists Intended for general audiences The Week or Weeks After an Event Weekly Popular Magazines and News Magazines  Long form stories begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy More detailed analyses, interviews, and various perspectives emerge Authors range from journalists to essayists, and commentary provided by scholars and experts in the field Intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups Six Months to a Year or More After an Event Academic, Scholarly Journals  Focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research Peer-reviewed, ensuring high credibility and accuracy Authors include scholars, researchers, and professionals Intended for an audience of scholars, researchers, and university students A Year to Years After an Event Books   In-depth coverage ranging from scholarly in-depth analysis to popular books Authors range from scholars to professionals to journalists Include reference books which provide factual information, overviews, and summaries Government Reports Reports from federal, state, and local governments Authors include governmental panels, organizations, and committees Often focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis

Infographic courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Undergraduate Library. Original is here: