Skip to main content

InfoSkills voor Rechtswetenschappen

InfoSkills @ TiU

Popular, professional & scholarly sources

Intended audience 

Each source is intended for a specific audience, and this affects both its content and style. Depending on their intended audience, sources can be divided into three main groups: popular, professional, and scholarly. 

© Tilburg University 
  • Scholarly/academic sources
    are typically written by and for experts in a particular field of study. In these sources, academics inform each other of research results, discuss the significance of the results, and formulate hypotheses (predictions about what the research will find) and theories.

  • Popular sources
    are intended for readers who do not have specialist knowledge of the subject.
  • Professional/trade sources
    are written by and for professionals or practitioners in a particular field (like medical doctors or business executives). They are published by the relevant organizations, i.e. professional associations and companies within a particular branch of industry. Their aim is to represent the interests of their members and to share knowledge and information with members.

Key differences between popular, professional, and scholarly sources

The intended audience affects all aspects of a source, such as the difficulty of information shared, the overall appearance, the presence and the nature of advertisements, and more.

Let's take a look at three examples. You can enlarge the images to view them full-screen.

  Popular  Professional Scholarly

Example: Intermediair 

Example: Monitor on Psychology  

Example: Quality & Quantity 


Advertisements Many ads -- typically for retail products, and sponsored content. Ads -- relevant to the profession or industry. No ads.
Appearance Slick design, glossy paper (print versions), with color pictures, photos, and illustrations. Slick design, glossy paper (print versions), with color pictures, photos, and illustrations. Plain design, black and white graphics, containing charts, graphs, and tables.
Audience A large, general public. People in a particular profession or industry (=professionals). Scholar (expert in an academic field, typically working at a university).
Author Journalists. Professionals in the field or journalists with subject expertise. Scholars.
Language Language that is easy to understand. Specialist language but less complex than scholarly language. Complex and formal terminology of an academic field.
Purpose Informing or entertaining the reader, selling products, and/or promoting a viewpoint. Providing practical information for professionals (news, trends, products etc.) and promoting education and skills within the industry [bedrijfstak]. Reporting on research findings, refuting or supporting viewpoints of other researchers in the same field.