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Last Updated: Jan 2, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Scholarly Journals and Research Studies Print Page

The Difference Between Scholarly Journals and Popular Magazines




Scholarly Journal

Also called "peer-reviewed journal" or

"refereed journal"


Popular Magazine










More examples:

American Journal of Sociology

Journal of Educational Psychology

Annual Review of Plant Biology




More examples:


Sports Illustrated




Usually longer articles (5+ pages) that present original research and original interpretation of data or in-depth analysis of topics. 

Usually shorter articles (1/8 to 5 pages) with general facts.  Common topics are people, current events, or general interest subjects.



Articles are usually organized into sections such as Abstract, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, and Discussion.

Articles are not structured in any certain format.





Written by an expert or specialist, in technical language for professors, researchers, and students in a particular field.  Name and credentials (degrees, etc.) are usually provided.  Journals are often published by a professional society, organization, or association. 

Written by a journalist or professional writer on the staff of the magazine, in simple, non-technical language for the general public.  Magazines are usually published by a company (e.g. Time/Warner).



Articles are usually reviewed and evaluated by a board of experts ("editorial board") in the field.  This is known as "peer-review" or "refereeing."

Editors on staff at the magazine evaluated the articles.



May contain graphs, maps, statistics, or photographs that support the articles.

Often glossy or color photographs and many advertisements.




A bibliography and/or footnotes are always present to credit and document sources of information used in the article.

Usually no formal bibliography, although names of reports and other sources may be named in the text of the article.



Determining Whether a Periodical is Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed/Refereed

  • Ulrich's Periodicals Directory allows you to look up a journal title and find out whether is refereed. (Available in paper volumes in LC Reference (non-circulating, 1st floor, PN4832.U5x)).
  • Check the "Instructions for Authors" pages in the journal. Articles may be refereed if the author is told to submit multiple copies of the same article. The editor may want extra copies to send to reviewers.
  • Check the journal to see if there is an editorial board for the journal.
  • Bottom line: When possible, look at the print issue or the publisher's web site for online articles to read about the scope of the journal, the intended audience, and the types of articles that are included.

What is a Research Study?

Research studies are derived from actual observation or experiments. They are original research papers whose authors have done the research, rather than reporting on someone else's research.

  • Most research articles use one of the following types of data and these words can often be found in the abstract or article: observation, questionnaires, interviews, controlled experiment, case studies, user studies, experimental research, and survey research.
  • When you are searching for research articles, the following headings are often used and can be flags to help you find an original research article:
    • Abstract
    • Introduction / Literature Review
    • Purpose of Study / Hypothesis / Problem Statement
    • Methodology / Procedures / Research Design
    • Results / Discussion / Analysis / Major Findings
    • Summary / Conclusion / Implications / Ideas for Future Studies
    • References / Works Cited
    • Notes / Appendices
    • Tables, charts, figures, statistical data (throughout the article)

Keep in mind: A journal may be scholarly but include articles that don't meet the criteria. These may include book reviews and editorials.

Primary Sources

In addition to scholarly journals and popular magazines, Morris Library also holds primary sources on a huge variety of topics. You can learn more about these materials at the link below.

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