essay 1 scholarly vs popular sources essay 1 scholarly vs popular sources

We often get told “don’t use popular sources in your school papers.” There is, however, little discussion about why, other than the generic statement that “scholarly sources are better.” That’s true in some ways, but in other ways, popular sources are fine. This essay will investigate the difference between the two in one specific instance.


Choose a popular article that talks about a study. Often, news outlets will have articles with titles like “New Study Suggests 18 Glasses of Wine a Day May Prevent Heart Disease.” This is the sort of thing you want. Then, find the scholarly study on which the original article is based. I have a list below of samples–feel free to use one of these. If you’d like to choose your own, contact me early, and I’ll help you find them!

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Once you have both, read the popular article and then the scholarly study. The essay should focus on comparing the two and explaining whether the popular article was complete and correct. In short, it should answer the question “did the popular article get it right?”

Some questions you might think of asking:

  • Does the scholarly research show what the popular article claims?
  • If the popular article claims “extends life” or “improves X,” but to what degree does it really extend or improve? If it’s a percentage, what’s that mean in practical terms?
  • Popular articles are necessarily more simplistic and shorter. What does the popular article leave out of the scholarly study? What impact does that have on the correctness and completeness of the article?
  • If someone were to act on the information in the popular article, would they be making the “best” decision?

Criteria and Details:

  • MLA-format should generally be followed. (12-point font, 1-inch margins).
  • 3-4 pages, double-spaced. I’m not a particular stickler for length, but short essays tend to be underdeveloped.
  • All quotations should be cited appropriately, with quotation marks around the quoted passages and parenthetical citations after them.
  • All paraphrases should be cited appropriately, with taglines introducing the author or source of the paraphrases and parenthetical citations after them.
  • All parenthetical citations should lead to an MLA-formatted Works Cited page.
  • Climate Change Popular Article Scholarly Study
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