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WRIT 150: Scholarly vs. Popular Journals

Identity and Diversity in American Contexts



Said of a scholarly journal that requires an article to be subjected to a process of critical evaluation by one or more experts on the subject, known as referees, responsible for determining if the subject of the article falls within the scope of the publication and for evaluating originality, quality of research, clarity of presentation, etc. Changes may be suggested to the author(s) before an article is finally accepted for publication. In evaluation for tenure and promotion, academic librarians may be given publishing credit only for articles accepted by peer-reviewed journals. Some bibliographic databases allow search results to be limited to peer-reviewed journals. Synonymous with juried and refereed.

Source: Reitz, J. Online dictionary for library and information science.

APA Citation:

Morrisette, S., Oberman, W. D., Watts, A. D., & Beck, J. B. (2015). Health care: A brave new world. Health Care Analysis : HCA, 23(1), 88-105.


Popular (Mainstream)

Most magazines are heavily illustrated, contain advertising, and are printed on glossy paper. Articles are usually short (less than five pages long), frequently unsigned, and do not include a bibliography or list of references for further reading. Most magazines are issued monthly or weekly for sale at newsstands, in bookstores, and by subscription.

Source: Reitz, J. Online dictionary for library and information science.


APA Citation:

García, A.,J., & Gonsalves, N. (2014, Aug). International exchange rites: A guide to global growth - part I. JAZZed, 9, 18-20.


Scholarly or Peer-reviewed vs. Popular Journals

Peer-reviewed or Scholarly ArticlesPopular Magazine Articles
Published in an academic journal, described also as refereed or peer-reviewed Published in a popular, general interest, or news magazine
Author is expert on topic or scholar Author may be lay reporter
Specialized audience of peers or students Audience includes general public
Goal is to inform or present research Goal is often to entertain or persuade
Research-based Report events or findings of others
Includes sources: footnotes and bibliography Sources may not be cited formally
Vocabulary is complex and technical Vocabulary is familiar, non-technical
Graphics used to illustrate research Graphics used for visual impact
Titles may include the words Journal, Review, or Annals; and/or refer to a field of study. Examples: Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Journal of Higher Education Titles often general, usually catchier. Examples: People Weekly, Newsweek
Published monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually Published weekly or monthly

Often your professor will tell you to choose only "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" article resources when you do research for a paper.  This table shows some key contrasts between scholarly and popular resources.  Many of the Libraries' article citation databases include an option to search only scholarly, but not all do, so this table should come in handy.

Subject Guide

Chimene Tucker's picture
Chimene Tucker
Doheny Memorial Library
room 224