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Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Popular vs. Trade vs. Scholarly

This guide will help you find case studies & resources related to your GIS projects at the Holman Library & online.

Popular vs Trade vs Scholarly Information

 It's imperative to recognize the difference between entertainment, journalism and scholarship. 

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Types of Sources?


IEEE Spectrum cover

Trade / Professional

Jouranl of Computational Dynamics cover

Scholarly / Academic

Author Most articles are signed, though  not all, but little information beyond a name. Books may or may not have an author. Professionals, science writers, journalists. You may have to dig for credentials. Primarily experts, often university or industry 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 - can be intended for "working professionals") Academics: scholars, researchers, college and graduate students
Content Entertainment, informative. Some in-depth discussion and analysis with research on current popular topics in information technology. Research, analysis, scholarship. Often includes abstract, research methods, conclusion, bibliography (look for a References list!)
Length Shorter articles providing broad overviews of topics. (popular) Short newsy items to longer, in-depth articles / chapters. May include "how-to" on a professional tool or task. Longer articles providing in-depth analysis of topics. Will usually focus on the "big picture." (scholarly)
(Print) 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. Check the "Overview" or Introduction section of books to see if an author identifies the title as for a professional audience. Articles are submitted for peer-review and approval by professionals and scholars in the field. Frequently sent back for revision for evidence, currency, comprehensiveness. Books are collections of scholarship.