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Scholarly vs. Popular: Home

Provides tips for determining whether an article is considered scholarly or popular .

Popular Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals


  Popular Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals 


Magazines and journals are both types of periodicals.
A periodical is any publication produced periodically, in regularly recurring intervals. 
Periodicals are made up of articles. 
They exist in both print and electronic format.
To locate articles in a periodical, use a database or index.

To determine which type of publication is most suited for your research, consult the chart of characteristics below.
The nature of your information need will impact which types of periodicals are most appropriate for your research.

Popular Magazines

also known as the "popular press"

Rolling Stone Magazine cover


Scholarly Journals

also known as the "academic press"
Usually preferred by faculty

Journal of Change Management

  • Articles may not list their author or are written by journalists or staff writers.
  • As a result, the articles are viewed as having less credibility
  • Written for a general audience with easy to understand terminology
  • Articles report on events or opinions and do not follow any specific format
  • Articles frequently lack a bibliography or "references."  
  • Contains many commercial advertisements
  • The magazine's editor or editorial board are made up of the magazine's staff
  • The publication cycle for magazines is short, with new issues usually appearing monthly or more often. This provides the ability to cover popular events in a timely manner.


  • Authors are listed, and are experts or professionals in their field
  • As a result, the articles are viewed as having more credibility
  • Written using the specialized vocabulary associated with the author’s field of expertise
  • Articles report on research results and often follow a specific format.
  • Generally includes a bibliography, or "references" at the end of the text citing others scholars' publications.
  • Either contains no advertising or may contain specialized ads that relate to the discipline of the journal.
  • The journal lists an editorial board comprised of scholars in the field, and competition to be published in the journal is intense 
  • The publication cycle for journals is longer, with new issues usually appearing monthly or less often The longer publication cycle sometimes leads to more  thematic coverage in an issue.


 Articles accepted in scholarly journals generally undergo one of two review processes before being accepted for publication.

  • peer-review (also know as refereed) journal articles have been sent off to other experts in the field for review. Those experts provide comments to the author, that the author considers in editing and re-submission for publication.
  • editorial review board is a group of scholars in a field who agree to work as editors for the journal, reviewing manuscripts submitted for consideration. 

Some databases provide filtering options to limit your results to either magazines or academic journals. You may still need to do additional filtering of your results to locate journals which are peer-reviewed.

 Andruss Library at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania diagrams the scholarly review processes like this:  


image of scholarly review process


and popular magazines vs. scholarly journals, like this:

visual representation of periodical categories




Two other types of periodicals you may encounter in your research are professional and trade publications. Periodicals of these types are usually produced by either the professional or trade association to which a member belongs. Examples include: American Libraries, a membership publication for professional libraries and library staff, or Construction News, a membership publication for the building and construction trade. Professional and trade publications are useful for reading membership news and catching the pulse of people working in a field.