LPC Library - Scholarly Journals or Popular Magazines

What Are the Differences?

If you have a difficult time deciding whether periodical resources are journals or magazines, the following short guide may help. The additional links at the end will lead you to information from other university or college libraries on the differences between journals and magazines.

TIP: If your instructor asks that you use journals for your research, you may limit your search to journals only in several of LPC Library's research databases. In EBSCOhost databases, limit to "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals". In GenderWatch or Ethnic NewsWatch, limit to "Scholarly journals, including peer-reviewed."

The term, "peer reviewed", refers to scholarly journals' policy of having articles examined by experts in the subject before the articles are accepted for publication.

Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines

1. Audience: scholars, researchers, specialists
1. Audience: general and casual readers
2. Reports results of original research aimed at certain disciplines in lengthy articles written in technical terms 2. Presents short articles on general information, current topics, or entertaining themes written in accessible language
3. Written by experts, scholars, researchers who give their credentials and affiliations in the articles 3. Written by reporters, freelance writers, or magazine staff often without credentials
4. Reviewed by experts or peer reviewed 4. Reviewed by magazine editors
5. Often present one subject area by scholarly societies 5. Usually present many different subjects in one issue
6. Have a serious look with plain text, seldom glossy
6. Have attractive and eye-catching style
7. Usually have abstracts, graphs, or charts 7. Have glossy pictures, graphics, cartoons, & illustrations
8. Have footnotes, sources cited, and bibliographies 8. Rarely have bibliographies or sources cited
9. Have no advertising or very little 9. Have heavy advertising
10. Often published by professional organizations, scholarly societies, or universities 10. Published by general or commercial publishers or other media groups for profit


JAMA(Journal of the American Medical Association)

Journal of African American History

Journal of Marriage and Family





Examples of Differences Within Articles in Scholarly Journals & Popular Magazines

The following example of an article on siblings from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows some of the details of what you may find in a scholarly journal:

Scholarly Journal

Image of first page of scholarly article

  • author and his/her affiliation (business or scholarly relationship)is identified;
  • abstract or summary begins the article;
  • citations within the text identifying the ideas and research of other authors;
  • more information on the author's affiliation may be given at the end of the page or article.

Image of the References in a Scholarly Journal

  • list of references at the end of the article identifying the research and ideas of other authors in detail;
  • example list of references is A.P.A. style;
  • organized by last name of author and date of publication;
  • in-text citation in example (Downey, 1995) points to the reference: Downey, D.B. (1995)...

Popular Magazine

The following example of an article on siblings from Parents magazine shows some of the details of what you may find in a popular journal:

Image of Article in Popular Magazines

  • author may be listed, but no affiliation or credentials;
  • brightly colored pictures, less text;
  • no citations or references;
  • many colorful large advertisements

Other Useful Definitions of Periodicals & Links to Information at Other Libraries

Periodicals may be further divided up into scholarly journals, trade journals, news and general interest publications, popular magazines, and sensational publications. An example of each follows:

Scholarly - JAMA

Trade Journals - Advertising Age

News/General - Forbes

Popular - People Weekly

Sensational - National Enquirer

This website was adapted from many library sites offering a description of the difference between scholarly journals and popular magazines. Some of these sites have very detailed descriptions further dividing periodicals into the above types. University of Central Florida and Winston Salem State University carefully discuss the differences. Check out the following library sites that were used to come up with LPC's description. You may find many other useful sites by searching "journals vs magazines" in a good search engine.


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Page last modified: February 05, 2014