Scholarly Journals & Popular Magazines


College students are required to use scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles for most writing assignments.  This guide describes the differences between scholarly and popular periodicals.


Scholarly (peer-reviewed) JournalsPopular  Magazines

Main purpose: to inform and to report on original research

or experimentation.

Main purpose: to provide information or to entertain.

Serious look; mostly text, may have charts, graphs, and illustrations.

Usually quite attractive, glossy in appearance;

articles often heavily illustrated. Includes newspapers.

Always cite their sources in footnotes or bibliographies;

usually have an abstract at the beginning; addresses,

credentials of authors usually included.

Sometimes cite sources, though most often do not.

Articles are reviewed by scholars or researchers in

the field before being published (peer reviewed).

No peer review process; editorial team makes

all content decisions.

Articles are written by a scholar or researcher in the field. Articles are written by editorial staff, scholars or freelance writers.
Uses the language of the discipline; assumes reader has some background in the field.Language understood by general readers.

American Political Science Review
Journal of Health & Social Behavior
Modern Fiction Studies

The Historian

Scholary journal  Scholary journal2 

Atlantic Monthly
National Geographic
People Weekly
Scientific American

Sports Illustrated

Popular magazine image  popular2  popular3


An article is scholarly if it:

  • Is 7-20+ pages long.
  • Includes footnotes or bibliography.
  • Is written by professors or scholars.
  • Is found in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Includes an abstract at beginning.


An article is popular if it:

  • Is 2-5 pages long.
  • Is slick and attractive with lots of photographs and drawings.
  • Lacks cited sources.
  • Written in easily understood language.
  • Sometimes informs, but mostly entertains the reader.



For an excellent overview:  Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals  (Vanderbilt University)


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