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PSYC 240 Social Psychology: Scholarly vs Popular Articles

Scholarly Articles

Some features of scholarly literature:

  • Reports of original research

  • Authored by credentialed experts in the scholarly field

  • In-depth analyses of topics

  • Abstract that summarizes the article. Read to determine relevance

  • Explanation of methodology and materials

  • Discussion of study and results

  • Literature Cited section

  • In-text citations or notes

  • Use technical vocabulary

Types of Scholarly Articles

Three types of scholarly article in psychology.

  1. A Research article reports on an original experiment or study that investigates a stated problem. The study is carefully controlled so that results are valid. Data is collected and analyzed. 
  2. A Literature Review summarizes and analyzes the important articles on a topic. Literature reviews are a great resource for learning about the scope of research, question, issues and theories in a field. 
  3. A Theoretical article is an article that presents a theoretical approach to a question or field. It draws on others' research to support the theory, rather than presenting new research and data.

Scholarly vs Popular Psychology Articles

Comparing Source Types

We are surrounded by talk about human psychology, whether on tv shows like Oprah and Dr. Laura, in magazines like Psychology Today or People, or on the Web.  It's imperative that we recognize the difference between entertainment, journalism and scholarship. 

The table below shows three different source types. Review the characteristics of each.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Types of Periodicals?
  People Magazine Cover cover of psychology today magazine cover of the journal of social psychology
Author Most articles are signed, though  not all, but little information beyond a name. Doctors, psychologists, science writers, journalists. You may have to dig for credentials. Primarily experts, often university researchers, whose credentials are usually included.
Audience General public. Written for the "average" person who doesn't need in-depth knowledge of a topic. (popular) General public with an interest in more in-depth discussion of topic. (mostly popular) Academics: scholars, researchers, college and graduate students
Content Entertainment, "pop psychology" Some in-depth discussion and analysis with research on current popular topics in psychology Research, analysis, scholarship. Often includes abstract, research methods, conclusion, bibliography.
Length Shorter articles providing broad overviews of topics. (popular) Short newsy items to longer, in-depth articles. Longer articles providing in-depth analysis of topics. (scholarly)
Appearance Glossy, colorful, pictures, busy, advertisements. Unclear division between ad and editorial content. Glossy, pictures, advertisements. Text-heavy, black & white, graphs, charts, relevant images, few specialized advertisements.
Credibility Articles are generally evaluated by staff editors rather than experts in the field. Sources are frequently uncited and anonymous. Articles are reviewed by editors and sometimes by experts in the field. Articles are submitted for peer-review and approval by professionals and scholars in the field. Frequently sent back for revision for evidence, currency, comprehensiveness.