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*Research and Writing*

Welcome! This guide will help you develop your research and writing skills by providing foundational knowledge of the iterative research and writing process as well as manageable steps for breaking down and navigating college research projects.

Still Struggling?

Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful.  Contact someone at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.

Categorizing Information

Learning how to categorize information is a critical step in recognizing, differentiating, classifying, and understanding different types of information. By classifying information, you are able to make quick assessments regarding its authorship, content, purpose, and intended audience. This assessment allows you to choose the correct information type to meet your academic, professional, and personal needs.

Information is usually categorized into three types of publications: scholarly, trade, and popular.  Professors will often assign a minimum or maximum number of sources from each category for an assignment. The sections below will help you determine which publications are scholarly, trade, and popular.

Scholarly Sources

image of scholarly sources

Scholarly sources often form the core of college-level research assignments because they are highly credible sources of information. Both books and articles can be classified as scholarly information. Scholarly publications usually include original research and studies with expert analysis. They are generally peer-reviewed before publication, meaning that the work has undergone a series of reviews by other experts in the field to ensure the quality, credibility, and accuracy of the provided information.

Scholarly sources are typically written for an intended audience of students, researchers, and experts by experts in the field. Because there is an expectation that the audience will have prior knowledge of the topic, scholarly sources often use technical language and may be challenging for non-experts to understand. Scholarly articles, specifically, tend to be longer than other articles and often explore unique aspects of a topic rather than providing a general overview. Almost all scholarly publications include a bibliography, works cited, or reference list of other sources that have been consulted or cited.

Trade Sources

image of trade sourcesTypically published as magazines, journals, or newspapers, trade information focuses on what is relevant and important to a specific industry. These sources explore the current trends, products, and directions of a field or industry in order to help readers improve their practice, business, or field. Many are published by reputable professional organizations. Some articles may provide full citations for a few critical resources. Unlike scholarly sources, trade publications are usually not peer-reviewed.  

Trade sources are generally written by professionals or specialized journalists for an intended audience of professionals in a specific field. Because the publications are so specialized, they are likely to address a variety of issues, viewpoints, and perspectives related to the subject matter. However, since their intended audience is practicing professionals, these sources often focus on practical tips and pieces of information instead of taking a theoretical approach or conducting a critical analysis of subjects.  

Popular Sources

image of popular sourcesPopular information entertains and informs the reader. Books, magazines, and newspapers are common sources of popular information. Most popular publications provide broad overviews of subject material. Popular sources are not peer-reviewed before publication.  

Popular sources are often written for the general public by journalists and freelance writers. They use language that is chatty and easy to understand instead of technical language. Popular articles, in particular, tend to be much shorter than their scholarly and trade counterparts. Although professors often discourage citing popular sources in research writing and projects, they can be a valuable source of background information. They can help identify viewpoints surrounding an issue, providing potential angles for deeper research. Also, because popular sources tend to be published more frequently than scholarly and trade publications, they often contain the most current information on subject material. Popular publications generally do not showcase original research or include full citations for information used.

Comparison Chart

comparison chart for scholarly, trade, and popular sources