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Types of Sources - What's the Difference

Learn quick and easy criteria for differentiating between common source types often used for projects and research at the university.

General Interest

A general interest magazine is a periodical that contains articles written by professional writers and journalists. While these writers may have some expertise on the subject they are writing about, they are not scholars.

Because these articles are written for a broad educated audience, they are usually easier to understand than articles in scholarly journals.

Before they are published, these articles are also reviewed, but not by scholars. Rather, they are reviewed by professional editors working for the magazine, who may or may not have some expertise on the subject of the article.

Characteristics of General Interest Articles

A black line illustration of a to-go coffee cup

What is the purpose?
Provides information to a general, educated audience

Why use them?
Stay up-to-date on current events and issues; Find potential research topics

Who is it for?
For a broad readership ranging from high-school educated to company executives to university presidents

Who writes the article?
Often written by journalists or staff writers

Who reviews the article?
Articles have minimal review by editorial staff

What type of language or writing is used?
Common language aimed at a high school reading level; little use of formal language, jargon, or unique terminology

Are other sources and cited?
Occasionally sources are referenced in the article but rarely formated as a bibliography or footnotes

Are images and advertising included?
Very often photographs, illustrations, and graphs are used to enhance an article; heavy reliance on advertising that appeals to a broad readership

How often are issues of articles published?
Varies greatly and can range from daily to weekly to monthly