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Scholarly Journals vs Popular Magazines

Can you describe the difference between articles written in scholarly and popular publications? Knowing the differences between scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles can help you to select appropriate articles for your research. However, when in doubt regarding the quality of a resource in any format, consult a Reference Librarian or your professor.

See also Scholarly vs. popular sources Research Guide.

  scholarly professional journals substantial non-specialist journals popular journals
Scholarly / Refereed / Peer Reviewed Journals
Popular Magazines
Professional & Trade Magazines
Scholars vs Staff Writers
Authors are scholars and experts in the field. Authors are always named, and their institutional affiliation is given. Articles are Peer-Reviewed or Refereed. Authors are staff writers, editors, free lance writers, journalist, who are trained in journalism. They may also be anonymous. They may not be experts on their topic. Authors have expertise in a field or industry. Editors may or may not have expertise in a field or industry. They have training in editing and journalism. There is no peer review process.
Publishers may be university presses, professional assoc. or non-profit organizations. Publishers may be corporate-backed, or individuals dedicated to making a profit. Publishers are usually corporate-backed, professional assoc. and concened with making a profit.
Sources Cited
Sources cited in bibliographies and footnotes. Sources rarely cited. Information is often second or third hand and original source is often obscure. Sources mentioned occasionally with short bibliographies.
Articles are generally longer with a focus on research projects, methodology and, theory. Language is more formal, technical and may employ subject-specific jargon. Articles are short and of general interest, with a focus on current events, news, and personalities. Articles are fairly short, with an emphasis on industry trends, new products or techniques and organizational news.
Audience & Language
Audience tends to consist of academics, scholars, researchers and professionals. Readers seek the latest news and information in their field. Audience tends to consist of generalists and non-professionals. Readers seek current news, entertainment and information. Audience tends to be members of a specific business, industry, or organizations. Readers seek the latest information and news to learn more about or improve their business or advance their careers.
Appearance & Advertising
Covers and paper tend to be plain, rarely glossy. Advertising is rare or non-existent. Pictures include black and white graphics or illustrations. Catchy titles, attention grabbing covers on glossy paper, and color photos and illustrations are common. Lots of advertising. Glossy covers may include headlines mentioning companies or organizations. Lots of color photos and illustrations.
Availability / Frequency
Published monthly, quarterly or yearly. Journals are found in many libraries but not generally at newstands. Published weekly or monthly, popular magazines are generally found at bookstores, newsstands, and libraries. Published weekly or monthly, the more popular trades may be sold at some newsstands. Libraries carry print and/ or electronic subscriptions.

Journal of Asian Studies
Current History
Harvard Business Review
Journal of Mass Media Ethics
Yale Journal of Criticism

Sports Illustrated; Time
Vogue, Newsweek
People, Forbes
Vanity Fair, Vibe
Tennis, House & Garden
Police Chief, Variety
Parks & Recreation, Advertising Week
Scientific American

Scholarly vs Popular Magazines on the Web

Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals - Cornell University Library

Popular Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals - Duke University Libraries

Popular Magazines vs Trade Magazines vs Scholarly Journals - Colorado State University Libraries