NOTICE: The Library is continuing to work on the transition to a new and improved library management system. As the transition continues some functions and services will continue to operate at a limited capacity. Users can still check out and return items and search the catalog. Users will not be able to log in to their library accounts, request items online, or use self check-out machines. If you have questions please email or call (202) 687-7607. Thank you for your continued patience during this transition.

Search Google Scholar

or browse databases: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

You are here

You are here

What's the Difference between Scholarly Journals and Popular Magazines?

Why does it matter?

  • In your research project or paper, you need to show how your ideas relate to those of others.
  • In most cases, you'll want to use articles from scholarly journals to support your arguments because these are written by experts, include references you can consult, and have been carefully edited.
  • Sometimes, depending on your topic, you'll need to use articles from popular magazines. Be sure to check with your professor or instructor that the sources you're using are acceptable for the assignment's requirements.
  • Finally, whatever sources you use, evaluate them carefully.
    • Does the author show bias and does it affect his/her conclusions?
    • Is the information accurate?
    • Does the author support his/her arguments with credible evidence?


A Quick Comparison

Scholarly JournalsPopular Magazines
Examples: Journal of Politics, Philosophical Quarterly, World Politics, Human Biology Examples: People, Time, Newsweek, Vogue, National Geographic, The New Yorker
Articles written by experts: often professors Articles written by non-specialists
Articles often go through a peer review process: independent experts evaluate the article before it's published Articles are reviewed by an editor, but not by a panel of experts
Articles have footnotes and bibliographies Articles may or may not mention sources in the text
Minimal advertising, graphics, or illustrations unless relevant to the article (for example, art journals) Extensive advertising, lavish photos, colorful cover to market the magazine


Here is a great tutorial from Vanderbilt University Library on the differences between popular and scholarly periodicals.