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COMM 1300 (Janda): Public Speaking: News Articles vs. Academic Articles

Types of Articles and their Differences


  News/Popular Article Academic Article
Content/Intent summary of event, idea, research done by others to entertain and/or inform, may present "the truth" without pointing out bias or opposing side; often a general overview of a topic detailed account of original research with the intent of sharing with other scholars and contribute to "scholarly conversation" and invites scrutiny/debate; highly specific topic
Author sometimes named in byline, sometimes not clearly stated authors and their professional credentials and institutional affiliation
Audience general public scholars, researchers, students
Layout/Language everyday language, informal organization; often attractive, interesting photographs, fonts, layouts; intended to attract readers uses specialized terminology/jargon of field of study; formal layout with abstract at the top, followed by introduction, literature review, methods, analysis, discussion, conclusion and references
References often not included, often vague, can be hard to find exact references always included, cited throughout as supporting evidence to research conducted and situate the research in the greater field
Fact-checking/review reviewed by news editors who may not have specialized knowledge of subject (may be checked by independent fact checkers but this rarely influences content) usually reviewed by experts in the field through a process called "peer review" that calls out questionable methodology, conclusions or faulty research design
Examples New York Times, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American,  U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, People, Time Magazine Nature, Journalism and Mass Media Quarterly, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Political Marketing


Primary Sources are the "raw materials of history" and are the original items/materials/sources upon which other research is based. They provide insight to researchers about what actually happened during a particular event, research project, or time period. Published materials can be viewed as primary resources if they come from a time period that is being researched, and were written or produced by someone with firsthand experience of the event. In science, primary sources present original thinking, report on discoveries, or share new information.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Original academic/scientific research articles by the people who did the research
  • Historical, legal and government documents
  • Newspaper reports, specifically by reporters who witnessed an event or eyewitness accounts
  • Speeches, diaries, letters and interview transcripts, social media posts, blogs, recordings, oral histories
  • Datasets, survey data, such as census or economic statistics
  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event or artistic performance
  • Original works of art, writing, music, and other creative endeavors
  • Theses, dissertations, patents

Secondary sources are materials that describe, summarize, interpret, analyze, critique, evaluate or otherwise repackage primary sources. One step removed from the subject, secondary sources are the result of someone's contemplation and synthesis. Like primary sources, secondary materials can be written or non-written (sound, pictures, movies, etc.).

Examples of secondary sources include: 

  • Review articles that summarize current literature on a topic
  • Criticisms, histories, commentaries, biographies, interpretations
  • Newsletters
  • Popular magazines and periodicals
  • Encyclopedias, atlases, reference books
  • Textbooks
  • Newspaper or other articles reporting on primary research or events

Helpful links for interacting with academic articles:

What is an academic research article?

  1. It is a paper written by an expert or researcher in a specific field of inquiry for other researchers in that field.
  2. The paper is written with the intent to publish it in an academic journal, which both disseminates the research and contributes to the authors' academic achievements for the purposes of advancement and/or tenure. Academic papers are ranked by the number of times their articles are cited by other researchers, so authors try to get their papers published in "highly ranked" journals for more publicity and esteem from their peers. These highly ranked journals are exceptionally hard to publish in.
  3. There are two main types of academic papers:
    1. Original research papers: detailed explanation of the how and why behind a research project
    2. Review articles: summarizes the scholarly work about a given topic over a specific time period; attempt to explain the history of the research, current trends, and to identify gaps in the knowledge that need further  research to fill.
  4. A scholarly paper is usually put through the process of peer review, which involves having peers in the field (so other experts or very experienced researchers) evaluate the paper for quality. This peer review (see section on peer review for more information) is intended to assure the quality of the methods and conclusions of the authors and to offer suggestions (revisions) to improve the paper before it is published.

What is Peer Review?

Scholarly peer review (or "refereeing") is a process of having experts in a field evaluate a research paper or book for quality prior to publication. The opinion of the experts (so the "peers" of the author of the paper or book) helps the editors of an academic journal or publisher decide if the work is good enough (or original enough, done with the best methodology, etc.) to publish. The reviewers also usually give recommendations on how the author can improve their work. Peer review is meant to assure that quality research is published.

Here is a summary of the process:

  1. The author submits their work to the editor of a journal/scholarly publisher who decides if the article topic fits their scope for publishing. If it fits, they forward the article to expert peer reviewers in that field for review.
  2. The reviewers evaluate the quality, accuracy, methodology, and validity of the manuscript.
  3. Reviewers suggest changes and recommend if the manuscript should be published or not.
  4. The Journal decides if the article will be published; if it is, the journal editor makes sure the author has addressed any concerns or issues brought up by peer reviewers. Then the article can be published.

How To Find Peer Reviewed Resources

  1. Limit searches to "Peer Reviewed" items: In OneSearch (the main library search bar) allows you to filter results to "peer reviewed" items. Many databases also allow you to do this; for example, Academic Search Premier has this feature on the initial search screen - click on the pertinent box to limit the search. In some databases you may have to go to an “advanced” or “expert” search screen to do this. Some databases do not have this filter option.
  2. Peer-reviewed articles and publications will generally be from reputable journals or publishers. Do an internet search to find out more about the publisher and author. Peer-reviewed scholarly articles will have a specific format: look for an abstract, introduction, literature review, methods section, discussion, conclusion and bibliography. Generally, they will not have illustrations or be in "popular" publications for the general public.
  3. The database (enter this in the library main search bar) can be used to determine if a journal is indicated peer-reviewed. Type in the exact title of the journal including any initial A, AN, or THE in the title. If your journal title IS displayed, check to see if the journal is refereed (peer reviewed) by looking at the column on the left with the little striped referee shirt symbol. If that symbol is present, that journal is peer reviewed.
  4. Examine the journal itself for a declaration that it is peer-reviewed. You can find this information on the main website for the journal or on the "masthead" (imprint) of the publication, which is a section at the beginning (or maybe end) of an individual issue that names the editors and affiliated staff. In electronic journals, you will often find a link to "journal homepage" from any article you open. You may need to search around on the homepage to find out their peer review policy, which should include their process for conducting peer review.

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