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Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals: Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

How to determine if a resource is scholarly or popular.

Scholarly vs. Popular vs. Trade Periodicals

What is a scholarly journal?

Your instructor has asked you to find an article in a scholarly (or academic or refereed or peer-reviewed) journal. Scholarly journals differ from popular magazines and trade journals/magazines in a number of ways. (See "Comparison Chart" below.) A primary difference between scholarly journals and other types of journals and magazines is that articles in these journals undergo a "peer review" process before they are published. What does this mean?

  • Peer review is the process by which an author's peers, recognized researchers in the field, read and evaluate a paper (article) submitted for publication and recommend whether the paper should be published, revised, or rejected.
  • Peer review is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.
  • Peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process.

The following characteristics can help you distinguish between these and two other types of periodicals: popular magazines and trade publications. If in doubt, ask your teacher or a librarian for assistance. View a helpful video from NC State University here: Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Comparing Scholarly & Popular Sources


Based on Scholarly vs. Popular Materials by Amy VanScoy, NCSU Librar
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From Idea to Library

Where do research articles come from? View this quick video from NC State University to understand the process. 

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Just as a human is made up of parts (bones, muscles, tissues, organs, etc.), a scholarly article is made up of specific parts (title, abstract, methodology, conclusion, etc.) To view the anatomy, or parts, of a scholarly article follow this link: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Chat with a Librarian!

If you are experiencing problems with our guides, please contact Janet S. Ward, jward@limestone.edu, Associate Professor and Web Services Librarian.