Differentiating Between Academic Resources and Popular Resources

Any serious researcher should be able to differentiate between academic resources and popular resources. This is even more important due to the volume of information available on the Internet and in print. This is truly the information age and it is easy to become lost in the sea of what is available.

Magazines and Journals

While some persons may confuse them, calling journals magazines and vice versa, in the academic arena they are different. Journals for the most part are academic publications written by and for scholars, researchers, faculty and students. Magazines on the other hand are meant for a general audience. In most cases magazines articles are written by journalists or professional writers who are experts on certain topics or even generalists.

The main points to bear in mind when differentiating between popular and academic resources are:

•Who the author is: writers for magazines can be anyone, unlike academic journals which are generally written by scholars, researchers and professionals in their fields of study. For academic resources the articles normally have the author’s names and credentials, while this is not always the case with popular magazines.

•The audience for whom the publication is written. Journals that are used as academic resources are written for a specific audience. The tone and language used are generally technical while magazine articles target the general population as a rule. Due to the audience, magazine articles are much shorter than academic journals.

•The type of language used: scholarly or academic resources use language that is more academic in nature and with terms specific to the discipline being written about. Magazines tend to be written in a less scholarly tone so as to appeal to readers of various educational backgrounds and interests.

•Journal articles and other academic resources tend to have footnotes and bibliographic citations. This is rare with popular magazines.

Granted, popular magazines can and are frequently used as academic resources. When this is done it is normally used for background information especially if the topic is new to the researcher. Knowing when and how to use both is important when writing research papers.

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