Drain-Jordan Library Database List-Chemistry, West Virginia State University
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Looking for Articles in Journals and Magazines
Scholarly or Popular?

In academic research it is important to distinguish between scholarly (academic or expert) and non-scholarly (or popular) sources. While both types of sources are valuable in research, most academic work will favor scholarly sources over popular ones. Below you'll find a brief comparison of scholarly and popular sources.

One reference source, in addition to the chart below, that can help you make the distinction between scholarly and popular sources, as well as help you determine credibility of periodical sources is: Ulrich's International Periodical Directory (former reference book, now on the library's database page, NOT available off campus). Ulrich's provides basic factual and qualitative information about many periodicals; it also indicates whether a journal is peer reviewed or refereed.

Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources


Scholars, researchers, practitioners General public


  • Experts in the field (i.e., Faculty members, researchers)
  • Articles are signed, often including the author's credentials and affiliation
  • Journalists or freelance writers
  • Articles may or may not be signed


Includes a bibliography, references, notes and/or works cited section Rarely includes footnotes


Editorial board of outside scholars (known as peer review Editor works for publisher


Often a scholarly or professional organization or academic press Commercial, or profit

Writing Style

  • Assumes a level of knowledge in the field
  • Usually contains specialized language (jargon)
  • Articles are often lenghty
  • Easy to read - aimed at the layperson
  • Articles are usually short, and often entertain as they inform

General Characteristics

  • Primarily print with few pictures
  • Tables, graphs, and diagrams are often included
  • Usually few or no advertisements
  • Often have "journal," "review," or "quarterly" as part of the title
  • Usually have a narrow subject focus
  • Containns ads and photographs
  • Glossy
  • Often sold at newsstands, grocery/drug stores or bookstores
  • Usually have quite a broad subject focus

Refereed Journals/Peer Review Journals/Juried Journals
  1. Refereed, peer review, juried journals are terms different people use to refer to the same thing. Refereed (peer review, juried) journals are scholarly journals where the scholarship of the article has been reviewed by experts in the same field, before the article is published in the journal.
  2. The review process can take months but provides special authority to the article.
  3. Refereed/peer review journals are the most significant of the scholarly journals.

revised 12/2014