Skip to Main Content

Quick Start to Research

Guiding you through the research process.

Scholarly or Popular?

Scholarly Journals or Popular Magazines?

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Scholarly, peer-reviewed articles (also called “refereed”) are required for academic research. Scholars and researchers publish their findings almost exclusively in scholarly and academic periodicals (also called journals). Before being accepted for publication, these articles must be evaluated by experts in the field by a process called “peer-review.” This process insures the information is: 

  • Accurate
  • Authoritative
  • Original
  • Expands the understanding of the subject or area of study

Popular magazines may provide articles that address similar subjects as the scholarly journals, but these articles have not been evaluated by experts in the field, therefore, are not peer-reviewed, and are written for the general public. The intentions of popular periodicals are to give an overview of a topic, entertain, sell a product, or promote a viewpoint. 



Scholarly Peer-Reviewed articles

Popular Magazine articles

  • Title may contain the words "Journal of", "Review of" or "Annals"; may contain the name of a discipline or subject area; may be lengthy
  • Plain, sober, or serious in appearance
  • Often provides an abstract, or descriptive summary
  • Always cite their sources in a bibliography
  • Written by scholars or researchers, for scholars and researchers
  • The author’s affiliations (university, research institution, professional organization) are always present
  • Written in specialized or scientific terms or jargon specific to the discipline
  • Few advertisements
  • May be published by a university or academic organization
  • Report on original research or experimentation



  • American Economic Review
  • Annual Review of Psychology
  • JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Journal of Theoretical Biology
  • Literary Ethics
  • Modern American Literature
  • Theory, Culture & Society
  • Title may address a general theme or subject; may be one word
  • Glossy, slick, or eye-catching in appearance
  • Do not provide an abstract
  • News and general interest periodicals sometimes cite sources, though more often they do not
  • Written by a journalist for the general public or people in a particular field (trade magazines)
  • Written in layman or general language
  • Published by commercial companies, although some by professional organizations
  • Many advertisements
  • Provide entertainment or information to a broad audience
  • May be written in a more “sensational” style intending to arouse strong interest or reaction.



  • Psychology Today
  • National Geographic
  • Time
  • Reader’s Digest
  • Scientific American
  • Smithsonian
  • The Economist

Find Peer Reviewed or Scholarly Articles

Hints to finding peer reviewed or scholarly articles in library databases.‚Äč

  • On the Search screen in any database, click the option (if offered) to filter results by "Academic Journals," or limit results to "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals."