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Library Instruction Session for ACA 115: Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

Library Instruction Session for ACA 115

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines
What's the Difference?

Characteristics Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines
Title Examples


  • American Journal of Psychiatry
  • Child Development
  • Journal of Studies on Alcohol
  • Social Science Quarterly


  • Rolling Stone
  • Men's Health
  • People
  • Surfer
  • Few ads
  • No photos, but may contain charts and/or graphs.
  • Serious-looking
  • Articles tend to be long, more than 5 pages.
  • Articles contain specialized vocabulary
  • Lots of advertisements
  • Photos
  • Fun, colorful
  • Articles tend to be short, less than 5 pages.
  • Articles are highly readable.
Authors Written by scholars in a specific field, usually affiliated with college or university Staff writers, usually generalists in a given subject area
Documentation Articles contain a comprehensive bibliography. Articles do not contain a bibliography.
Purpose Reports on original research findings. Provides general information about topics, with little technical detail.
Article Publication Policy Other scholars (peers) in the field review the article before it can be published, a process called "peer review." Edited by magazine editors before the article is published.
Cost Subscriptions are expensive. Subscriptions are inexpensive.


Adapted from Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines, Duke Libraries.

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