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Pharmacy Guide: Scholarly vs. Popular

Find targeted resources for research and referencing

Popular vs. Scholarly

You are at university now and it's important to start using scholarly information where ever possible. You can't rely on Wikipedia or Google as the only sources of information any longer. 

Watch the video clip below.  It does a pretty good job of explaining the differnce between scholarly and popular resources and the table on the right is a great place for you to refer to in the future.

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Trade Journals

There is a third type of journal you will often find:  professional literature, othewise known as

Trade Publications

Trade journals are written for people who work in the industry, by people who work in the industry.  They can contain good information about what people are doing and using in the field.  However, they do not have the same scientific standards as a peer reviewed/scholarly journal, and like a popular journal, the articles are just approved by the editor - they are not seen or approved of by experts in the field.

Many of the articles in a trade journal may have been written by someone who is trying to promote or sell a product, and you should be wary of this.

You should use trade journals to:

  • Answer questions about the "social" side of pharmacy - what are people doing or using? what are the current debates and "hot topics"? what is the "word on the street" concerning a particular topic"

You should NOT use trade journals to:

  • Provide scientific evidence or prescription advice.  The science in these journals simply isn't reliable.

Popular vs. Scholarly journals









To inform and entertain a general audience.


To present and/or report on original research.



Usually colourful and attractive; articles often have lots of illustrations and photographs.

Generally contain few colourful photographs.  May have technical charts and graphs as necessary.


Articles are shorter, more superficial, often including a generalised overview of topics.

May be useful as introductory background reading to a new subject.

Articles are longer, more in-depth and narrowly focused.

There is usually an abstract (summary) of the article.



Language generally non-technical with no specialist knowledge assumed.

Unfamiliar terms and concepts are usually defined.


Technical language (jargon) which assumes specialised background knowledge.




The authors are often journalists with little or no specialist knowledge of the subject.  Their credentials are rarely given.


Authors' credentials as an expert are explicitly presented, usually on the first page.




No original research other than background reading and interviews is involved.


Presents the results of original research.




Rarely cites sources.


All articles are rigorously referenced with all sources cited.  Usually contains footnotes and bibliography.


Peer Review?

Articles are approved for publication by the editor

Articles are approved for publication after review by the author's scholarly peers.

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