Skip to main content

FP-130 Research Guide

Evaluating Articles

Students are often told to use "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" articles in their research.  However, it is not always easy to tell which periodicals (journals and magazines) are considered scholarly.  The chart below may help in distinguishing among the many periodicals you will find.  It is important to remember that even in a scholarly journal, not all material will be scholarly articles; for instance there may be book reviews or short up-dates on news in the discipline.  You should always look at the article itself as well as the journal.  When in doubt, talk with your instructor or a reference librarian.

TYPES OF PERIODICALS AND THEIR CHARACTERISTICS

Characteristic Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines Trade Magazines
Audience Scholars; Professionals & students in the field General Public Practitioners & professionals in the field
Authors

Researchers; experts in the field; names and affiliations are identified

Professional journalists and writers; authors may not be identified Practitioners & reporters specializing in a field or industry
Publisher Often professional societies & universities, but may be commercial publishers General, commercial publishers Usually publishers who specialize in a particular field or industry
Publishing Decisions Usually reviewed by one or more experts in the field (peer-reviewed or refereed) Editors Editors
Content Original research; usually longer articles Little original research; usually shorter articles; some popular magazines are more authoritative than others. Reports on news, trends, and forecasts for a field or industry.
Writing Style Uses language of the specific field or discipline Written for the non-specialist in popular language Written for the professionals in the field; often business related
Documentation Provides notes and/or bibliography of works consulted in the research Usually has no notes or bibliography Usually has no notes or bibliography
Appearance Illustrations generally limited to charts and graphs Glossy, pictures and photographs Often graphical presentations of statistical data; pictures relate to text
Advertisements Few advertisements; usually relating to the field (e.g., books or journals) Many advertisements; often not related to the articles Many advertisements for services and goods in the industry.
Frequency Usually monthly or quarterly Usually weekly or monthly Usually weekly or monthly
Availability Most often by subscription By subscription, but also on newsstands and in bookstores Usually by subscription
Examples American Historical Review, Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Shellfish Research Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, National Review, The Economist, Psychology Today PC Week, Jane's Defence Industry, Offshore, Chemical Engineering

Also, you may want to check out this 3 minute online tutorial from Vanderbilt University Libraries:

Journal Articles - Scholarly and Popular (1:45)