Popular vs Scholarly

Scholarly vs. Popular

The following guidelines are meant to assist students in determining whether a journal is scholarly or popular. These are guidelines only, not absolute criteria. When in doubt regarding the quality of a resource in any format (print or electronic), consult a reference librarian and/or your professor.

Scholarly Journals
(sometimes called Research Journals
or Academic Sources)

Popular Magazines
(sometimes called General or Journalistic Sources)
Articles always have bibliographies and end/footnotes. Articles lack bibliographies or references.
Authors are always named, and their institutional affiliation is given. Authors may be anonymous.
Articles may be peer-reviewed or refereed. Articles are not peer-reviewed.
Target audience is academic or professional. Target audience is the general public.
Journal title may include terms such as "journal," "review," or "bulletin" - but not always! Magazine title doesn't usually include terms like "journal," "review," or "bulletin." Notable exceptions include The Wall Street Journal and Ladies' Home Journal--these are NOT scholarly.
Journal covers and pages tend to be plain in design. Some scholarly or professional journals contain advertisements (like JAMA), so identify the target audience to make your final determination. Magazines tend to include advertisements, graphics, color photos, etc.
Issues tend to be successively numbered, with the page numbering of each issue beginning where the previous issue ended. Each issue generally begins with page 1.
Articles tend to be longer. Articles tend to be shorter, some only 1-2 pages.
Issues tend to be published less often (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually). Issues tend to be published more frequently (monthly, weekly, daily).