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Media Theory and Methods

Defining Key Terms

You may be wondering what we mean when we refer to scholarly versus popular.

  • Scholarly: In-depth, research-based articles, books, and book chapters, written by scholars and experts and intended for other researchers, experts, and students.
  • Popular: Articles, books, and book chapters written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience in common language (e.g., newspapers and magazines).

Learn more: What is Scholarly?

While we're at it, how about a few more key terms...

  • Peer-Reviewed: A process through which some scholarly articles and book chapters are critically evaluated by experts with in-depth knowledge of the research area before publication in order to ensure the information is valid, credible, well-written, and of high quality. 
  • Literature: Scholarly articles, books, and book chapters published on a particular subject.
  • Primary Resource:  A scholarly or popular article that provides evidence of an occurrence and involves the participation of the researcher
  • Secondary Resource: A scholarly or popular article that is more removed by time or place, usually a synthesis or summary of research that has already been published.

Verifying Peer-Review

Are you looking especially for peer-reviewed articles? 

  • Many databases will tell you if an article has been peer-reviewed.  You may even be able to use limits or filters in the database to narrow your search results. 
  • If you're still not sure if an article has been peer-reviewed, search the name of the journal in which the article was published in Ulrichsweb Periodicals Directory.  The symbol of a referee's jersey next to the journal name indicates the journal uses peer review.  (Refereed is a synonym for peer reviewed.)  Note, though, that not all content in peer-reviewed journals is actually peer-reviewed; book or film reviews, letters to the editors, opinion columns, and articles without references are typically not peer-reviewed.

Core Databases for Scholarly Literature


Proper citation is an important part of scholarly writing.  It allows for readers to observe the scholarly conversation in which you are participating as an author and confirms that you aren't plagiarizing, or claiming another person's work as your own.

Citation is a standard - meaning it is a list of rules that is established by a discipline or journal.  Pay close attention to the rules (spacing, punctuation, and style matter!) and you will be fine. 

How do I get the full text of my article?

To get the full text of an article, consider the following options:

- If you are in Encompass Search or a library database, look for "Check for Full Text buttons," "Access Online," or "Check eResources" buttons. These buttons will take you the full text of the article or tell you that the full text cannot be found. If the full text is not available from Trexler Library, look for buttons to request the item from another library via interlibrary loan. Or go directly to the interlibrary loan request forms.

- If you have citation information for the article (i.e., journal title, article title, publication year, etc.), type the information about your article in Encompass Search on the library website. If the library subscribes to the full text, you will be directed to the article (see first bullet above). If not, you can request a copy of the article via interlibrary loan.

- If Trexler Library does not have access to the full text of the article, search Google Scholar by article title to see if the author has made a copy freely available online. If not, you can request a copy of the article via interlibrary loan.