Skip to Main Content

EGL 102 - Robert Serb - Spring 2024

Popular, Professional, and Peer-reviewed

When performing research for your topic, you will generally encounter three kinds of reliable resources: popular, professional (or trade), and peer-reviewed (sometimes also called scholarly. Understanding the differences between these three types will enable you to best choose sources for your research projects. 

All three types are found within Oakton's databases. This page describes the differences and helps you to make better informed choices for your sources.

Popular Sources

Popular resources are written for a large, general audience, and are easily accessible to the public, often free of charge. Popular resources are written to inform, persuade, or entertain their audiences. These sources often answer factual questions like who, what, where, when, why, and how. When you are looking for information about current events, they are a great resource. Some examples of reputable popular resources include:

A few things to remember about popular sources:

  • Popular resources often may not cite their sources.
  • Some popular resources are produced by organizations which have an agenda and want you to be persuaded to look at a given topic in a particular way. 
  • Popular sources can contain opinion/editorials, and news articles. These two types of articles offer very different kinds of information. (see the graphic below.) 
  • (Graphic by Eliana Miller)

Professional Publications

Professional--or trade--publications are written for an practicing, professional audience by expert members of that profession. They offer specialized knowledge about current practices within a field; for example, tourism, manufacturing, or agriculture. These journals are published by either trade associations or commercial publishers. They may cite references but are generally not peer-reviewed. Some examples of professional or trade publications from the Oakton Whole Library:


Peer-reviewed or scholarly articles are written by experts for an audience who desires to explore a topic in-depth. These articles often contain specialized language. These articles are reviewed by a group of experts in the field prior to publication to ensure that both the methods and conclusions are accurate. These articles are often longer and cite extensive references. They are generally published by university presses, or professional associations. 

Most databases allow you to limit your search to include "peer-reviewed" articles only. Oftentimes, in a general list of resources, these articles will show that they are peer-reviewed, or from an academic journal. Many professors will require you to use peer-reviewed articles because of their research depth and their lengthy vetting process.  

Some examples of peer-reviewed journals from the Oakton Whole Library: