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Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines: Overview

This research guide explains how to identify whether a source is a scholarly journal or a popular magazine.

Both magazines and journals can be useful sources of information. Learn the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines.

Scholarly Journal Overview

  1. Audience: scholars, researchers, specialists.
  2. Reports results of original research aimed at certain disciplines in lengthy articles written in technical terms.
  3. Written by experts, scholars, researchers who give their credentials and affiliations in the articles.
  4. Reviewed by experts or peer-reviewed.
  5. Often present one subject area.
  6. Have a serious look with plain text- seldom glossy.
  7. Usually have abstracts, graphs, or charts.
  8. Have footnotes, sources cited, and bibliographies.
  9. Have no advertising, or very little.
  10. Often published by professional organizations, scholarly societies, or universities.

Sample Scholarly Journal Titles & Cover Art

  • JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Journal of African American History
  • Journal of Marriage and Family

Popular Magazine Overview

  1. Audience: general and casual readers.
  2. Present short articles on general information, current topics, or entertaining themes written in accessible language.
  3. Written by reporters, freelance writers, or magazine staff, who often lack professional credentials.
  4. Reviewed by magazine editors.
  5. Usually present many different subjects in one issue.
  6. Have attractive and eye-catching style.
  7. Have glossy pictures, graphics, cartoons, & illustrations.
  8. Rarely have bibliographies or sources cited.
  9. Have heavy advertising.
  10. Published by general or commercial publishers or other media groups for profit.

Sample Magazine Titles & Cover Art

  • Prevention
  • Jet
  • Parents


This guide was adapted from the Las Positas College LibGuide "Scholarly Journals or Popular Magazines: Overview."