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Environmental Science Resources: Popular vs. Scholarly Journals & Websites

This Guide presents Library resources to assist you in finding articles and information for your Environmental Resources research.

Primary Vs. Secondary Articles

A primary source is a document or record which reports a study, experiment, event or other phenomenon firsthand.   

Primary sources are usually written by the person(s) who did the research, conducted the study, ran the experiment, or witnessed the event. Primary sources are detailed first reports of the results of this original research.

Look for the following elements when deciding whether a journal article is a primary source reporting the results of original research:

  • Problem and Purpose
  • Significance
  • literature review or synthesis of the theory and other research relevant to the topic being studied
  • a description of the population or sample in the study;human subjects
  • an outline of methodology;
  • Interventions
  • Sample
  • Instruments
  • data collection
  • data analysis
  •  a report of results and a discussion of their significance; implications
  • conclusions

Clues for Determining Whether Article is Primary and Scholarly:

  • Article is more than 8 pages long
  • Article has headings such as: "literature review," "population," "methodology," "results," etc.
  • Contains keywords such as "study" or "research"

Popular vs. Scholarly Journals and Websites

Popular vs. Scholarly Journals and Websites





General readers.

Professors, researchers, scholars, students.


Colorful, eye-catching, lively, slick.

Attractive, but also serious.


Many; banner ads that change on a regular basis.

Few, if any.


Commercial and non-profit organizations; personal home pages.

Educational institutions, faculty pages, professional associations, some commercial and non-profit organizations.


Staff writers, journalists, usually not experts in the field.

Experts in the field, professionals, credentials provided.


News oriented, entertaining,non-technical, opinions.

Original research, subject specific.


Easy to read, engaging.

Formal language, prior knowledge of subject matter required.


Usually short to medium in length, providing broad overview.

Usually quite lengthy in order to provide in-depth analysis on topic. 


Heavily illustrated, eye-catching.

Few illustrations. Include appropriate research-oriented tables, charts, and graphs.


Very few, if any

Bibliographies, footnotes



Timeliness is not as important


No specific words included or excluded, may be cutesy or contain slang

Language of the discipline is usually used; “study” or “research” will often be included in the title.