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English 120 Communication Skills: Writing

A guide to library resources and research for ENG110, 120, and 122 students

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

When conducting research, scholars often rely on articles from scholarly journals rather than popular magazines. The table below lists major differences that exist between these two types of resources.

Scholarly Vs. Popular Journals

Criteria Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Journals Popular Magazine What if it’s the electronic version?
Overall appearance Serious with few illustrations. Can include charts, graphs and equations. Flashy and glossy with many illustrations. Fewer charts and graphs and likely no equations. You won’t see the cover and may not see images and/or charts.
Advertising Few, if any, ads. Ads will be for books, other journals, and academic conferences. Many ads for consumer products. Ads typically won’t be available.
Audience Other scholars and students. Uses scholarly terminology and jargon. General public; language is accessible to most readers. Apparent in e-version.
Authors Experts in the field. Reporters and freelance writers. If available, affiliations are typically listed in the e-version.
Article length Generally longer. Generally shorter. Apparent in e-version.
Article structure Often very structured with abstracts, methodology and conclusions. Comparatively unstructured and often written in narrative form. Apparent in e-version.
References Includes extensive footnotes and/or bibliography. Rarely includes footnotes or bibliography. Apparent in e-version.
Article acceptance and editing Uses a “peer review” process, in which articles are reviewed by other experts in the field. Articles are reviewed by editors before publication. Some databases allow you to limit your search to “peer reviewed” journals.


Adapted from California State University San Marcos

How do I find articles from scholarly journals?

Some databases allow you to limit your search to scholarly, peer reviewed journals. Look for the scholarly or peer-reviewed limiter checkbox in library databases like EBSCO and ProQuest.

For more information on peer review, see the Peer Review Process box on the Research Essentials research guide.