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Scholarly vs. Popular

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

ScholarlyPopularIf electronic?
Overall appearanceSober 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.
AdvertisingFew, 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.
AudienceOther scholars and students. Uses scholarly terminology.General public. Language is accessible to most readers.Apparent in e-version.
AuthorsExperts 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 lengthGenerally longer.Generally shorter.Apparent in e-version.
Article structureOften very structured with abstracts, methodology, and conclusions.Comparatively unstructured.Apparent in e-version.
ReferencesIncludes extensive footnotes and/or a bibliography.Rarely includes footnotes or a bibliography.Apparent in e-version.
Article Acceptance and EditingUses 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.

Need more help?

  • Clarify with your professor what types of magazines or journals are acceptable for your research.
  • Ask a Librarian.
  • Use Ulrich’s International Periodical Directory (behind Reference Desk).

If you have any questions, please contact us at 336-758-5475.