HomeLibrary ServicesResearch ServicesResearch Guides › Scholarly vs. Popular

What’s the difference between a scholarly journal and a popular magazine? This comparison chart can help.

Scholarly Popular If electronic?
Overall appearance Sober and serious. Few illustrations. Many charts, graphs, and equations. Flashy and glossy. Many illustrations. Fewer charts and graphs. No equations. You won’t see the cover and may not see the illustrations and/or charts.
Advertising Few, if any, ads. Most ads will be for books, other journals, and academic conferences. Many slick ads for consumer products. Ads typically won’t be available.
Audience Other scholars and students. Uses scholarly terminology. General public. Language is accessible to most readers. Apparent in e-version.
Authors Experts in the field. Authors’ academic affiliations are listed. Reporters and freelance writers. Names and affiliations may not be listed. If available, affiliations are typically listed in the e-version.
Article length Generally longer. Generally shorter. Apparent in e-version.
Article structure Often very structured with abstracts, methodology, and conclusions. Comparatively unstructured. Apparent in e-version.
References Includes extensive footnotes and/or a bibliography. Rarely includes footnotes or a bibliography. Apparent in e-version.
Article Acceptance and Editing Uses a “peer review” or “referee” process, in which articles are reviewed by other experts in the field. (Check for an “Instructions for Authors” section.) Articles are reviewed by editors before publication. Some databases allow you to limit your search to “peer reviewed” journals.

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