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Evaluating Sources: Using the RADAR Framework

The RADAR Framework can help you remember what kinds of questions you should be asking about an information source as you evaluate it for quality and usefulness in your research.

A Brief Definition

Scholarly:  Disseminate research and academic discussion among professionals in a discipline.  Journals such as Journal of Applied Communication Research.  Usually peer reviewed or refereed.

Popular:  Inform and entertain the general public. Magazines like Time or Rolling Stone; or newspapers like the L.A. Times.

Trade:  Neither scholarly or popular sources, but could be a combination of both.  Allows practitioners in specific industries to share market and production information that improves their businesses.


Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Information

What's in them?

Scholarly articles present original research on events related to a specific discipline written by professors, researchers, or professionals

Example - AJP: The American Journal of Psychology

Popular articles are about current events and popular culture, opinion pieces, self-help tips, or advertising written by staff writers or free-lancers

Example - Psychology Today

Trade articles are about news, trends, best practices, and products for a specific industry or profession Written by a professional in that field or journalist with subject area expertise

Example - Monitor on Psychology

What are their advantages?

Scholarly information:

  • Is usually evaluated by experts before publication (peer-reviewed)
  • Has footnotes or bibliographies to support research and point to further research on a topic
  • Has authors that describe methodology and supply data to support research results

Example - Nature

Popular information:


  • Is written for non- specialists
  • Provides timely coverage of popular topics and current events
  • Has good sources for topics related to popular culture

Example - Scientific American

Trade information:

  • Has timely coverage of industry trends
  • Sometimes contains short bibliographies
  • Has shorter articles that are informal and practical

Example - Chemistry World

What are their disadvantages?

Scholarly information:

  • Has articles that often use specialized terminology that can be difficult for non-specialists to read
  • Includes scholarly journals that are expensive and may not be readily available
  • May not be as useful for current events or popular culture due to long research process

Example - The American Economic Review

Popular information:

  • Has articles that are selected by editors who may know little about the topic
  • Has authors that usually do not cite sources
  • Publishes to make a profit; the line between informing and selling may be blurred

Example - The Economist

Trade information: 

  • Is not peer-reviewed, though author is usually a professional in the field
  • Uses specialized terminology of the field
  • Has evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge but NOT rigorous research

Example: The Banker