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Identifying scholarly works

Characteristics of scholarly works and popular periodicals

When writing an academic paper, it is important to use the right resources at the right time. This table will help you identify if an article is scholarly or popular press.

Faculty often request students find "scholarly or academic journal" not "popular magazine" articles for their research sources because, in general, scholarly articles are viewed as having more authority. Articles from the popular press are viewed as being less credible.

Characteristics Scholarly articles Popular magazines

Formal structure

May include: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography

No specific format or structure
Length Longer articles provide in-depth analysis of topics Shorter articles
Broader overviews of topics
Sources Footnotes and bibliographies Rarely contains citations
Original sources can be obscure
Review Policy

Articles read and reviewed by peers for accuracy


Articles may go through editor or editorial board

Professional, specialist

Noted expert in the field

Journalist, staff writer or anonymous

Researchers and professionals

Advanced reading level

Specialized vocabulary

General public

Basic reading level

Little or no specialized language

Advertising Very little or highly specialized Significant amount

Journal of Commonwealth Literature

Sex Roles: a Journal of Research

JAMA: The Journal of the American

Medical Association

Annals of Science


Sports Illustrated


Psychology Today