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Scholarly Books vs. Popular Non-Fiction

Scholarly Book

  • Written by a scholar, researcher, PhD holder in the field, professor
  • Utilizes extensive primary source documentation
  • Uses discipline specific terminology, methodology, theory
  • Advances research or contributes to a discipline of study
  • May be a monograph or edited compilation of contributions from multiple scholars
  • Published by a university or scholarly association

Example: The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics by Hedley Bull

  • Authored by a Professor of International Relations at Oxford
  • Published by Columbia University Press
  • Written for academic audiences with familiarity with the discipline
  • Theoretical and analytical
  • Reviewed by academic journals: Political Science Quarterly, The Times Literary Supplement

Popular Non-Fiction Book

  • Written by a professional, reporter, political pundit, writer
  • May or may not include references or notes
  • Uses language appropriate for a general audience
  • Is informational but does not present original empirical research
  • Does not require discipline specific knowledge
  • Typically a narrative or biographical story
  • Published by trade publishers (i.e., Harper Collins, Random House)

Example: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

  • Authored by an award winning writer
  • Published by Random House
  • Written for a lay audience
  • Narrative or biographical story
  • Review from popular sources: Salon, The Economist, Sports Illustrated, New York Times

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