Answered By: Robert Fitzpatrick
Last Updated: May 03, 2018     Views: 364

Scholarly journal articles are written for researchers and students.  Popular journals (aka magazines) are written for regular people. 

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journals are also known as peer-reviewed or refereed journals.  Journal is a word we use for magazines.  We also call them periodicals. Your professors will often say that they want your research to come from peer-reviewed sources. What does that mean?


The peer review process works something like this. A researcher writes an article about his or her research. The researcher will then send a copy of the article to the editor of a journal. The editor makes copies of the article and distributes them among known scholars in the same field asking for comments and endorsements. If these scholars (the referees or "peers") decide that the research is solid, timely, and makes a valid contribution to the field, the editor will probably decide to publish the article in the journal.

Journals are among the most important vehicles for advancing knowledge in a particular field of study. Their intended audience is fellow researchers. They are the preferred sources for your research and the use of them in your papers establishes your own credibility with your reader (your professor!). It is important to note, however, that journals frequently contain letters to the editor, book reviews, and personal opinion columns, which are not primary sources in the strict sense, because they are not reporting original research.

If the article you're looking at matches the description of a scholarly journal as outlined above, then you're using a peer-reviewed publication. You can feel confident about including it in your bibliography.

Scholary vs Popular Journals

Popular magazines and scholarly journals differ in several significant ways. The following eight points will help you determine whether a particular title is popular or scholarly.