How to Tell the Difference & Why it Matters
Most fields of study recognize a number of scholarly (also known as peer-reviewed) journals. These "magazines" reflect high standards of quality and objectivity, and are published specifically for the purpose of serious academic research. These journals are ideal as references for academic work.
Popular magazines, on the other hand, are usually geared toward a general audience with less emphasis on research and objectivity. More emphasis is typically placed on entertainment, general information, and buying the commercial products advertised. Citing these journals is usually not acceptable in the academic arena.
How to find Scholarly Articles
Many article databases allow you to limit your search results. Look for a checkbox labeled "Peer Reviewed" or "Scholarly."
|Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals||Popular Magazines|
|Author||Usually an expert or specialist in a field or discipline, and his/her name and credentials are usually provided; often the author is not part of the publication's permanent staff||Usually a staff writer or a freelance journalist; her/his name and credentials are often not provided|
|Publication Title||Titles or subtitles often include the words journal, review, research, bulletin or annals||Usually short, sometimes "flashy", e.g. Mother Jones or Sports Illustrated|
|Language||Written in the jargon of the field and generally target specific readers (professors, researchers, students)||Written in non-technical language and can be understood by the general public|
|Peer Review||Articles are usually reviewed, critically evaluated, and selected by a board of experts in the field||Articles are not usually evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff|
|Format||Usually more structured; may include sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography/works cited||Do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure|
|Illustrations & Layout||Frequently contain illustrations that support the assertions within the text: photographs or drawings, tables of statistics, graphs or maps||Generally have many illustrations with glossy or color photographs, as well as many color illustrations used for advertising purposes|
|Length||Generally longer articles designed to offer in-depth analyses of topics||Usually shorter articles that offer broader overviews of topics|
|Bibliography||Almost always contains a bibliography (or list of "works cited") and/or footnotes designed to document research thoroughly||A bibliography ("works cited" list) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text|
|Advertising||Little or no advertising; may appear in one section and include job notices and conference announcements||Advertising throughout publication; often over 50% of the publication is advertising|
|Examples||Journal of Abnormal Psychology
African American Review
Review of International Studies
Table adapted from Bloomfield College Library's Information Gateway: Journal tutorial.