What is a Scholarly Journal? 

Professors often suggest that students include articles from scholarly, refereed, or peer-reviewed journals as resources for their research papers. These articles are authored by experts in their fields and reviewed by peers before getting accepted for publication. See below for a chart to help you distinguish between the three main types of periodicals.

  Popular Magazine Scholarly Journal Trade Journal
Examples Time Magazine Journal of American Studies Steel Times International
Appearance Highly visual, lots of advertising and photos Sober design, little advertising, mostly text with some graphs and tables Visual; some advertising related to the field, photos
Audience General readership Students, researchers, scholars, specialists in a particular subject Members of a particular trade, profession or industry
Content Popular magazines contain feature stories, reviews, and editorials, and may report research findings as news. Scholarly journals contain original research, theoretical issues, and new developments in the subject discipline. Trade and professional journals contain news, trends, technical and practical aspects of the trade, profession or industry.
Articles...* Are meant to entertain and inform

Use popular language, geared toward the average reader

Written by staff writers (not always named), or freelance writers

Generally short in length (1-10 pages)

Rarely include references or footnotes

Evaluated by editorial staff, but may not be reviewed by experts in the field

Present the results of original research performed by the authors; often include a review of existing literature on the topic

Include specialized vocabulary of a subject discipline

Written by subject specialists identified by name, with degrees and academic affiliation usually given

Generally medium-length to long (5-20 pages or more)

Meticulously documented; extensive references and/or footnotes

Most often peer-reviewed by other authorities in the field to validate findings

May present industry news and/or original research

Include specialized vocabulary of a trade, profession or industry

Written by staff writers and freelancers, usually professionals in the field

Generally short to medium-length (1-20 pages)

May contain a few references or footnotes

Evaluated by editorial staff that may include experts in the field, but not peer-reviewed

* Please note that not all articles found in magazines, or journals, will contain the noted characteristics. Use careful judgement in determining if an article in a scholarly journal actually presents in-depth, original research, or if an article in a magazine or trade journal goes beyond presenting news and current trends.

Adapted from "How to...Distinguish Types Of Periodicals: Popular Magazines, Scholarly Journals and Trade Journals", University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. See also...Is this a scholarly article?? Or not??? (SUNY New Paltz Sojourner Truth Library),  and Scholarly vs. Popular Materials Guide (NC State University Libraries)

Last Updated: 7/5/16