George Mason University


How to Identify Scholarly Articles

Instructors will frequently ask for articles from a "scholarly journal" for your paper or project. Just what is a scholarly journal? How does it differ from a popular magazine? Here are some tips on discovering which is which.

Scholarly articles are:

  • Lengthy and list references in footnotes or bibliographies.
  • Written by someone who has conducted research in the field.
  • Reports of original research or experimentation.
  • Not illustrated, except with graphs or charts; usually have no color pictures or ads.
  • Periodicals with titles like "Journal of the" or "Journal for the" are usually scholarly.
  • Examples: Journal of American Folklore, Shakespeare Quarterly, Journal of Quantum Physics

    Popular articles are:

  • Short and written to inform or entertain the general public
  • Illustrated with glossy or color photographs and ads.
  • Rarely footnoted and sources used are seldom listed.
  • Written by the magazine's staff or freelance writers.
  • Sold in stores, at newsstands, etc.
  • Examples: Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today, People Weekly, Forbes, Time, Cosmopolitan, Elle

    Electronic article hints:

  • The more subject-specific the database, the more likely that the articles in the database are scholarly.
  • Longer articles are more likely to be scholarly than shorter ones.
    Need help? Just ask! Librarians or reference desk staff can assist you.