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A scholarly journal is a periodical that contains articles written by experts in a particular field of study. The articles are intended to be read by other experts or students of the field and are usually much more sophisticated and advanced than the articles found in popular magazines. Many instructors assign research papers or projects that require students to use articles in scholarly journals. This guide offers tips to help distinguish scholarly journals from other periodicals.

SCHOLARLY JOURNALS                     

                    Characteristics of scholarly journals:

  • Scholarly articles reflect the systematic and thorough study of a single topic, often involving original research, experimentation, and surveys
  • Articles are written by a scholar in the field; the author is always identified
  •  Authors of scholarly articles always list the sources of their information (e.g., endnotes, footnotes, bibliographies)
  • Articles usually contain an advanced vocabulary; since the authors use the technical language or jargon of their field of study, they assume the reader already possesses a basic understanding of the field of study
  • Scholarly journals may also be called academic journals or peer-reviewed journals
  • Many scholarly journals, though by no means all, are sponsored by professional associations, such as the American Chemical Society or the American Psychological Association
  • Scholarly journals generally have a serious look, lacking the advertising, want ads, coupons, and glossy pages found in popular magazines

Examples of Scholarly Journals:




§  American Journal of Sociology     

§  Black Scholar


§  Harvard Business Review

§  JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association


§  Journal of Clinical Psychology

§  Modern Fiction Studies


§  Physics Reports

§  Technology and Culture


Usually issued weekly, news magazines can be useful for information on topics of current interest, but the articles seldom have the depth or authority of scholarly journals and should be used sparingly when writing a research paper. Articles from news magazines are heavily illustrated, generally with photographs, and are geared to an educated audience. The main purpose of news magazines is to provide information, in a general manner, to a broad audience. Most news periodicals do not cite their sources and authors are often not identified.

Examples: Business Week, Economist, New Yorker, Time


These are periodicals that are typically found at grocery stores, airport newsstands or bookstores in a shopping mall.  Articles are usually very short and written in simple language. The main purpose of popular periodicals is to entertain the reader, to sell products, and to promote a point of view or lifestyle. Because there is generally little depth to the content of the articles, popular magazines should not generally be used when researching a term paper or report, although there are exceptions.

  Examples: Bon Appétit, Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, People, Rolling Stone


These magazines contain articles aimed at an educated audience interested in keeping up with current events. The articles are frequently written from a particular political, economic or social view, and readers of these magazines must be aware of the periodical’s political and social viewpoints and biases. Often newspapers or news magazines will have an opinion section within the periodical, and readers should be aware of whether the periodical is expressing a conservative, moderate, libertarian or liberal point of view.

Examples: Commentary, Mother Jones, Nation, National Review, Progressive


Usually issued in a newspaper format, sensational magazines use elementary, inflammatory, and

sensational language and assume a certain naiveté and gullibility in their audience. Their main purpose

 is to arouse curiosity, to cater to popular superstitions, and to sell high volumes of issues. They often

 do so with flashy headlines designed to astonish (e.g., “Martians Take President Captive,” “Junk Food

Cures Cancer”). These articles are inaccurate and unreliable; sensational magazines should never be used when researching and writing reports.

Examples:  Globe, National Enquirer, Star