Social Work *: Scholarly and Popular Sources

Library resources for the social work profession.

Scholarly and Popular Sources

For your assignments you will need to find a variety of sources. Some of those sources will be scholarly and some will be popular. Both scholarly and popular sources can be useful in supporting your work. Think about what type of question you need to answer. Scholarly sources allow you to see how a certain topic has been analyzed in the academic community. They help you answer questions about effects, relationships and impact between issues and facts. Popular sources allow you to see how a certain topic or event has impacted the local community or population. They help you answer the who, what, where and when questions. *Chart below adapted from Rashelle Nagar.





Written by researchers who are experts in the discipline 

Written by journalists or nonacademics

Audience and Topic

Academics, scholars, and researchers - subject specific

General public - general topic/issues


Monthly, quarterly, or annually 

Published weekly or monthly


Few to none 

Many ads or promoted content


Footnotes, bibliography, and sometimes appendices 

Few to none

Review Process

Peer reviewed by other experts 

Reviewed by a publication editor


Tables, graphs, or photographs 

Lots of photographs and illustrations


Lengthy (usually 7+ pages) 

Often short in length


Formal tone with technical language 

Casual tone with little jargon

Peer-Reviewed Articles

What is a Peer-Reviewed Article? 

Peer-reviewed articles are written by experts and researchers who want to share their research with others in the field.

How do you find Peer-Reviewed articles? 

Search online databases and scholarly journals. Read the database description to determine if it includes peer-reviewed articles. Many databases include options to limit your results to peer-reviewed articles. 

Quick Reference

Ulrich's Periodical Directory will tell you if a journal is peer-reviewed (refereed). Type in the journal's name and look in the "Refereed" field.