Scholarly journals are concerned with academic study and contain research. They often use a process of peer review prior to publishing an article, whereby other scholars in the authors field or specialty critically assess a draft of the article. These journals are peer-reviewed or refereed. Articles in scholarly or peer-reviewed journals cite their sources in footnotes or bibliographies.

Many online databases, let you search for articles that are only published in peer-reviewed or scholarly journals.

Popular magazines are written for the general public and reflect their tastes and intelligence-level. Magazines can contain substantive news, articles concerning current events, or other topics of general interest.

Journals vs. Magazines

Instructors often make assignments that require the use of articles from scholarly or professional trade journals. The terms peer-reviewed, refereed, academic, or research are also used. This handout provides general guidance in recognizing the difference between scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles.


  • Articles are usually lengthy.
  • Articles usually have cited references at the end.
  • Usually illustrated by graphs, charts, or diagrams.
  • Written and signed by authorities in the field.
  • Purpose Report on original research or experimentation.
  • Usually contain an abstract, problem statement, and methodology.
  • Use vocabulary requiring some knowledge of the subject.
  • Geared towards scholars, researchers, or professionals.
  • Often published by a professional organization or university.
  • Usually published on a monthly or quarterly basis.
  • Reviewed by panel or board.
  • Contain few advertisements.
  • Limit your database search results to scholarly articles by the box next to Scholarly(PeerReviewed) Journals.

Examples of academic journals include:The Journal of Asian Studies, Arkansas Nursing News, Hemingway Review,JAMA


Examples of popular magazines include: Time, People, Psychology Today, Newsweek, Womans Day,The New Yorker, Forbes, Popular Mechanics
  • Articles are usually short.
  • Articles seldom have cited references at the end.
  • Frequently illustrated with glossy or color photographs.
  • Usually written by staff or freelance writers. Many times unsigned.
  • Purpose entertainment and information.
  • Contain no abstract, problem statement, or methodology.
  • Use simpler vocabulary.
  • Written for the general public.
  • Published by for-profit companies.
  • Usually published on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Not peer-reviewed.
  • Contain many advertisements.