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Popular or Scholarly? Evaluating Periodical Literature: Home

Popular magazines and professional or scholarly journals are published periodically and may all be considered periodicals. However, differences between them exist.

Peer Reviewed Journals

The most credible articles are those that have been peer reviewed. This means that after an article is submitted to a journal for publication, the article is sent out to experts for critical evaluation. These articles are frequently revised by the authors after this outside review prior to publication. Additional characteristics that may be used to evaluate periodicals are listed below.

To limit your search to Peer Reviewed Articles:

  • Use Academic Search Premier, listed under Databases: A to Z. Use the Limiters to select "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals " and send the search.
  • Use specialized indexes that primarily cover peer reviewed journals (e.g. Biosis Previews, MLA, Sociological Abstracts, etc.).
  • There are several ways to determine if an article is peer reviewed:
  • Is the journal scholarly? Popular magazines, newspapers, and most Government Documents are not peer reviewed.
  • Examine the journal. Look for instructions to the authors (these are often on the inside front or back cover, although sometimes they only appear in one issue a year) and determine if the submission process includes reviewers or referees, etc.
  • Examine the article. Look for notation on the first page that indicates the article was received, revised, accepted.
  • Look up the journal name in Ulrich’s periodicals directory, call number: 050 X U45,  located on  Level 4. Search for refereed journals. Or use Ulrich's online, listed under Databases: A to Z, scroll down to Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.

Peer Reviewed Journals

Look up the journal name in Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory (Ulrichsweb) online to find out if the publication is 'Refereed' (i.e., peer-reviewed) or not.


Magazines serve a general audience and provide entertainment as well as information. Journals serve a scholarly audience and have a narrow subject focus.

  • Aimed at a general audience.
  • Cover a wide range of topics.
  • Frequently available at newsstands.
  • Contain articles usually written by professional writers or journalists.
  • Author credentials may or may not be identified.
  • Published by commercial presses.
  • Generally inform, update, or introduce a topic to a general reader.
  • Lack a bibliography or literature cited.
  • Examples include: Time, PC Magazine, Rolling Stone,  etc
  • Aimed at scholarly readers.
  • Cover a narrow subject focus.
  • Usually available only by subscription.
  • Contain articles by experts in the subject area.
  • Authors credentials are always identified.
  • Frequently published by academic or association presses.
  • Include original research, reviews, or essays.
  • Articles are often reviewed/refereed by an author's peers before publication.
  • Often contains an abstract of the article on the first page.
  • Usually include bibliography or literature cited.
  • Examples include: American Historical Review, Journal of Wildlife Management, etc

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