Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Scholarly v. Popular Periodicals
You will have assignments at times where your professor asks you to use only scholarly journals. What exactly qualifies? Here are some characteristics of popular magazines and scholarly journals, as well as some other variations.
Reference librarians can help you tell if a journal is considered scholarly. When in doubt if a source will be acceptable for a particular paper, contact your professor.
Most databases will allow you to limit your search to scholarly journals. This is not 100% accurate, but will weed out most of the popular magazines.
... Scholarly Journals
- Articles are written by researchers or scholars in the field, who are generally not paid for their work.
- Appearance of the journal is generally plain. Most images included will be graphs and charts to support research.
- Articles are written in language that assumes the reader is familiar with the field of study.
- Articles are often selected for inclusion by a peer-review (or refereed) process. This means that a jury of scholars from the field review articles and choose the ones to be included.
- Articles are often longer.
- Journal covers a narrow range of topics.
- Some journals use continuous pagination, meaning that a whole volume (usually a year) uses one set of page numbers. For example, the summer issue of volume 22 of a journal might begin with page 154 (picking up where the spring issue left off).
- There are either no advertisements, or the advertisements are for products that are especially geared toward professionals in the field.
- They are usually only available as subscriptions.
- Articles that report research generally include the following in this order: abstract, literature review, description of research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
- Sources will always be cited in a bibliography.
- Examples: Behavioral Ecology, Management Science, Journal of the American Medical Association
... Popular Magazines:
- Most articles are written by staff writers or freelance writers, who are paid for their work, and don't necessarily have expertise in the subject that they write about.
- Appearance of the magazine is generally bright and colorful - designed to attract readers. Most contain many color photographs.
- Articles are written in language that most adults could read and comprehend.
- Articles are selected for inclusion by an editorial staff.
- Articles are often shorter.
- Magazine covers a broad subject range.
- Each issue begins with page 1.
- Lots of advertisements are included (for products that "normal" people buy).
- You can buy them at grocery stores and newsstands.
- Articles don't follow any sort of organized pattern.
- You will rarely find a bibliography of sources cited.
- Examples: Rolling Stone, Glamour, People, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated
... Professional/Trade Periodicals:
- Appearance may be more like a magazine - including images and color.
- Articles are written in a language that might be understood by the general public, but would only be of interest to those in the field.
- Are often published by professional organizations and given as subscriptions to paying members.
- Some articles may cite sources in a bibliography, others may not.
- Most articles will not be formal research studies, but there may be many of a practical nature, sharing tips and "what worked for us." Others may report on industry trends.
- Examples: Advertising Age, American Libraries, Chemical and Engineering News