PHL 195 Bailey CBL Project: Popular Articles

Guide to support CBL project about Cascade Learning Gardens

Popular vs Research Articles

climate change graph

Your assignment asks you to "Compare and analyze the difference between a scientific paper and a popular article on the same topic."  This page clarifies the difference between these types of sources.  

As you search the internet and library databases for scientific information, the best resources you find will come in two main forms. 

  • Peer reviewed research papers.  These are written directly by the scientists who conducted the research.  These primary source articles are written for an audience of other scientists, and can be challenging for the general public to understand. Learn about this type of article on the Research Articles tab
  • Popular sources:  credible magazines, news sources and web sites.  These are written for the general public, and will summarize the results of scientific research studies.  These secondary source articles are the most useful for non-professional scientists.  However, it is essential to use only high quality sources because we are depending on the author to interpret the primary research correctly. 

Learn more below about popular science sources. 

Popular articles

A so-called "popular" article is written for a general audience, in contrast to a scientific or research article that is written for a narrow audience of experts.  Popular articles include news sources, websites aimed at a general audience, and magazine articles found online or in library databases. 

A web search is a good place to start.  Some excellent popular science web sites include

The website Science Daily provides summaries of new research, with links to the full research article:

Many library databases include BOTH popular and research articles.  Try the following databases if you are only looking for popular sources. 


Types of articles in libray databases

The chart below shows the primary types of articles you will find in library databases.  Web articles can can take any of these forms, although most share characteristics with popular magazine articles. 

Decorative image of a newspaper News articles provide the most current information. Certain newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, are also known for thoughtful, in-depth analysis of important topics and events.
Decorative image of a magazine cover Popular magazine articles can help you generate ideas about issues, controversies, or unanswered questions about a topic, which you might want to explore further. (Popular here means written for a general audience, not how many people like them.) They sometimes refer to studies or scholarly work that you can track down for more information.
Decorative image of a trade magazine cover Trade publications are written by and for professionals within an industry. These are an excellent source of very specific information from inside the field.
Decorative image of a scholarly journal cover Scholarly journal articles go through a process of peer review before they are published. They are written by experts in the field (the people with letters after their name!) and their purpose is to advance the ongoing body of work within the discipline. These articles might present original research data and findings, or take a position on a key question within the field. They can be difficult to read, because their intended audience is other experts and academics, but they are at the top of the line when it comes to authoritative information.