George Mason University

Distinguish Different Types of Journals

Instructors will frequently ask you to include articles from a "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" journal in your paper or project. Just what is a scholarly journal? How does it differ from a popular or professional magazine? Use the criteria below to determine which is which.

Criteria Popular Trade Scholarly
Purpose inform the general public provide news, trends, or practical information to professionals working in a particular field or industry report research findings and promote scholarly communication
Authors magazine's staff or freelance writers staff writers or professionals in the field scholars or researchers in the field
Language non-technical language, understandable to most readers specialized terminology or jargon of the field specialized terminology or jargon of the field
Article Appearance brief articles; illustrated with glossy/color photos and advertisements

brief articles, but can be lengthier; may include photographs, illustrations, or adverstisements targeted at professionals in the field

lengthy articles; formal structure that usually includes: an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography; rarely includes color pictures or ads
References rarely include bibliographies occasionally include brief bibliographies always include extensive footnotes or bibliographies
Accountability not evaluated by experts in the field may be evaluated by experts in the field, but not peer-reviewed usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of subject experts (peer-reviewed)

Examples

(click images for more examples)

Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Time, People, U.S. News and World Report, Wired

American Psychological Association Monitor, Science, Adversiting Age, Industry Week, Publishers Weekly

Journal of American Folklore, Shakespeare Quarterly, Journal of Quantum Physics, American Mathematical Monthly, Lancet

For more assistance with distinguishing article types, Ask a Librarian.

*Based on Scholarly vs. Popular Materials Guide from North Carolina State University Libraries