Scholarly Journals vs Popular Magazines: What’s the difference?

Your professor may often assign a research paper and ask that you include scholarly (or peer reviewed) materials. You find a great article in Business Week but your professor marks it as a non-scholarly source. So, what’s the difference between scholarly and popular content?

Usually, scholarly journals include longer articles about original research written by experts in the field (faculty, researchers, scholars, etc.) Often, these articles are also peer reviewed (or “refereed”), which means they are also read by other experts in the field and evaluated to provide credibility prior to publishing. Images other than charts or graphs to illustrate research results are usually not included.

Popular magazines include shorter articles about general interest, news, or entertainment that are written by journalists or professional writers who are usually not experts on the subject about which they are writing. Popular magazine articles are never peer reviewed. Magazines also include images and advertisements.

Below is a chart to help you determine whether the source you are considering using in your next paper is scholarly or popular. We have also created a Web page.

How do I find scholarly articles?

In addition to browsing the first floor of the library for print journals, we have thousands of journals in our online databases. But don’t panic! Extracting the scholarly content is quite simple!

Most major databases offer a “peer reviewed” limiter on search pages; clicking the box next to this choice will only return peer reviewed articles in your search results.

For example, in any of the EBSCOhost databases, click the box next to “Peer Reviewed” on the search page: (see this page for help accessing databases from off-campus)

The Wilson Web databases have a similar feature:

Also, all of the articles in JSTOR, a database which covers most academic disciplines, are peer-reviewed. Just click on “Article” under “Item Type” when performing your search:

There are also a number of helpful videos created by libraries to help you differentiate between and find scholarly and popular sources.

Video: scholarly vs popular sources

Examples of scholarly journals: Note: the word “journal” does not always appear in the title!

Examples of popular magazines:

*~*~ If you need further help, don’t hesitate to ask-a-librarian! *~*~

Sources: adapted from University of Victoria Libraries & The University of Arizona Library