Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly journals and popular magazines often differ in typical ways, yet there are many publications that display characteristics of both types. The following list should be helpful in determining whether your periodical can be considered a scholarly journal or a popular magazine.
Scholarly Journals
Popular Magazines
  • to distribute highly specific knowledge to experts and students
  • to make money by supplying a platform to advertisers who want to reach a particular audience
  • annual, semi-annual, or quarterly
  • monthly, weekly, or even daily
  • usually use plain paper
  • often plain covers, with little design
  • most have a square binding
  • spine may contain the issue information
  • online site hosted by .edu or .org site
  • usually use glossy paper
  • often with colorful, slick covers
  • most are folded with a staple along center line
  • rarely enough room on spine for information
  • online site hosted by .com site
  • may be published by an association, institution or scholarly press
  • are published for profit
  • are distributed to a specific audience
  • are widely marketed and distributed
  • may have continuous (i.e, consecutive) pagination
  • usually restarts pagination with each issue
  • if any, they are directed towards specialists (job openings for researchers, upcoming conferences, other journals)
  • include colorful advertisements for everything from automobiles to cigarettes.
  • academic articles, book reviews, and letters to the editor
  • may include current events, international news, fiction, humor, product reviews, sports news, book (popular) review, celebrity interviews, etc.
  • are signed by the author(s)
  • are written by experts or specialists in the field
  • include the author's credentials, such as his/her position and affiliated institution
  • may or may not be signed
  • may be written by a non-expert (e.g., reporters)
  • may or may not include author's position and affiliated institution
  • may begin with an abstract
  • do not begin with an abstract
  • include references (works cited, bibliography) and/or notes citing the author's research
  • do not include references or notes, sometimes a suggested reading list, rarely citation notes
  • may report new research or review past research
  • usually not reporting cutting-edge research
  • contain specialized language
  • are written for the general public; contain little or no specialized language
  • can be lengthy
  • mostly are short
  • may be refereed, meaning that the articles are reviewed by experts in the field
  • articles reviewed only by the editor

Finding Scholarly Journals

One of the best tools for determining a journal's reliability and/or reputation beyond analyzing the characteristics listed above is Magazines for Libraries (Z 6941 .K2 2000, 2nd floor Reference), an annotated list of many of the best and most useful periodicals. The annotations in Magazines for Libraries provide descriptive and evaluative summaries for each title in order to indicate each periodical's purpose, scope and audience. Periodicals are listed alphabetically under subject headings.