What are the differences between scholarly journals & popular magazines?

  Scholarly Journals Popular / General Interest Magazines
Purpose Exists to communicate information
  • To inform, report or make original research available to the scholarly world.
  • Original reporting of research.
Exists to make a profit
  • To provide general information to a wide, interested audience; entertain, persuade, or sell products and services.
  • Secondary reporting of research.
Format and Appearance Serious
  • Contains little or no advertising; plain looking.
  • Graphs and charts to illustrate concepts.
  • Often continuous page number for a volume.
  • Photos and other graphics used to enhance articles.
  • Contains conspicuous advertising.
  • Paging complete within each issue.
Article Selection Written by scholars or researchers in the field or discipline.
  • May list an editorial board for article selection.
  • Authors vary from issue to issue.
  • Process for article submission may be described.
Authors may be on staff and appear from issue to issue.
  • May be written by free-lance writers for a broad audience.
  • Editorial board is not usually listed.
  • Process for article submission is not described.
Publishers Generally published by a professional organization Published by commercial enterprises for profit

Contain bibliographies or footnotes. Sources are rarely cited.

What if you are using an online, full-text article?

Of course, it is a little trickier determining what a scholarly article is when you don't have the whole journal or magazine in your hand. However, there are still some clues that may help you:

  1. Look for a list of references (a bibliography) at the end of the article.
  2. If the article is less than half a page in length, it is not likely to be a research article!
  3. Look for credentials after the name of the author(s).
  4. Does the title of the source (journal name) have the word "journal" in it? If it does, chances are it is more scholarly.
  5. In some article databases (indexes) you can limit your search to "peer reviewed" or "refereed" journals (scholarly journals).
  6. Use the chart above to help you evaluate the article.

Finally, if you are still unsure, ask a librarian or your instructor!

From the University College of the Cariboo Library