What's the Difference between Scholarly Journals and Popular Magazines?

Why does it matter?

  • In your research project or paper, you need to show how your ideas relate to those of others.
  • In most cases, you'll want to use articles from scholarly journals to support your arguments because these are written by experts, include references you can consult, and have been carefully edited.
  • Sometimes, depending on your topic, you'll need to use articles from popular magazines. Be sure to check with your professor or instructor that the sources you're using are acceptable for the assignment's requirements.
  • Finally, whatever sources you use, evaluate them carefully.
    • Does the author show bias and does it affect his/her conclusions?
    • Is the information accurate?
    • Does the author support his/her arguments with credible evidence?


A Quick Comparison

Scholarly JournalsPopular Magazines
Examples: African American Review, Philosophical Quarterly, World Politics, Human Biology Examples: People, Time, Newsweek, Vogue, National Geographic, The New Yorker
Articles written by experts: often professors Articles written by non-specialists
Articles often go through a peer review process: independent experts evaluate the article before it's published Articles are reviewed by an editor, but not by a panel of experts
Articles have footnotes and bibliographies Articles may or may not mention sources in the text
Minimal advertising, graphics, or illustrations unless relevant to the article (for example, art journals) Extensive advertising, lavish photos, colorful cover to market the magazine


Determining whether a source is scholarly or popular is just one step in evaluating information. Learn more on this Source Evaluation page on the Start Your Research guide.