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What is a Scholarly Journal?

Sometimes your instructor may require that you find articles from scholarly journals (also referred to as academic or peer reviewed journals) instead of popular magazines.

Why? Because articles published in scholarly journals are written by experts in a particular field. For example, articles in medical journals are written by doctors or other people with medical degrees, articles in history journals are written by professional historians, etc. Because of this, scholarly journals are more authoritative and credible than popular magazines.

The table below summarizes some of the differences:

Academic Journals

Popular Magazines

Geared towards scholars in a particular field of study Targeted at a general audience
Report original research
  (a thorough, systematic study of a single topic)
Cover popular topics
  (articles aren't as thorough or systematic)
Articles are written by scholars, researchers, experts
 (articles include the author's credentials)
Articles are written by journalists and staff writers
  (not necessarily experts)
Include references
 (bibliographies, footnotes, endnotes)
Rarely include references
Often sponsored by professional organizations
 (the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, etc.)
Not sponsored by professional organizations
Articles are peer reviewed
 (evaluated by other experts prior to publication)
Articles are not peer reviewed


The following tips may also help:

Journal titles - Journal titles often (but not always) include words like: journal, association, bulletin, quarterly, research, review, society, studies.

Examples: Journal of Allied Health, Adult Education Quarterly, Research in the Teaching of English.

Unfortunately, it isn't always this obvious. Lancet and Nature are both academic journals but you wouldn't know that by their titles.

Article titles - In addition to the periodical title, you should also check the article title.

Magazine article titles tend to be short, sometimes funny, and try to catch the reader's attention. Examples: Here Kitty, Kitty; Murder 101; A Storm Over Reform.

Journal article titles are longer, more specific, and describe the topic being discussed. Examples: The Effects of Substance Use on Specific Types of Criminal Offending in Young Men and The Impact of Drinking and Driving Consequences on Short-Term Employment Outcomes in At-Risk Drivers in Six Southern States.

 
 
 
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