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Honors US 1100: Scholarly or Not?

Fall 2020, Professor Maureen Lemke

Context is everything......

The credibility or trustworthiness of an information source depends on:

  • Where it came from.
  • Who it was made for, and
  • How you use it. 

We call this the the context.

Effective researchers understand that the level of credibility and quality needed from a source will vary based on the context. An information source's context (see above) help determine its appropriateness to the task at hand.

There are two major types of periodical: scholarly or popular.

There is a type of journal you will encounter in an academic library called a scholarly (or sometimes referred to as an academic, refereed or peer-reviewed) journal. They are written for and by people who work in academics: professors, researchers, undergraduate or graduate students. This type of article is best suited for your research because it is reliable and authoritative.

Popular periodicals are the kind you would buy to read for fun. They may have some value for research, depending on the topic, but they are usually not the best type of resource for academic work.

There's a third type of periodical you might see called a trade journal. Those can be considered as a category in-between popular and scholarly journals since they are more specific than a popular magazine but not peer reviewed like a scholarly journal.

To find out if a journal is considered scholarly, check the Ulrich's database by doing a search for the title of the journal.

If you see a little referee shirt icon then the journal title is considered peer reviewed "aka" scholarly. 


Academic (Scholarly) Journal: Journal that is focused on academic topics and primarily read by scholars, students, professors, and researchers. Often contains original research, literature reviews, and other scholarly work.

Peer-Reviewed: A type of academic journal that requires papers to be vetted by a panel of editors (peer review) for quality before they are published in the journal. 

Periodical: A library term for magazine, journal, or newspaper. Does not include books.

How can you tell them apart in a database?

Typically library databases will have a filter to allow you to only see results from a certain type of periodical. 

Google Scholar Search

Search for library subscribed scholarly articles

Google Scholar Search

Types of Periodicals

  Scholarly journals Popular magazines
  A photograph showing a stack of academic journals. A photograph showing a stack of popular magazines.
Authors Articles are written by authorities in the field Articles are usually written by professional writers or journalists
Sources Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies There are rarely bibliographies
Audience Aimed at scholarly readers (researchers, professors, or students) Aimed at general population
Publisher Often published by academic or association presses Published by commercial (for profit) presses
Advertisements Contains few to no advertisements Contain numerous advertisements
Peer-review? Most articles are reviewed by an author’s peers before publication to ensure high quality Rare
Article scope Journals usually have a narrow subject focus, and articles often include original research, reviews, or essays Used to inform, update, or introduce a topic to a general reader
Graphics Illustrations often consist of charts or graphs Numerous colorful illustrations and/or photographs are usually present
Language Articles use jargon of the discipline Language is geared to general population; no special knowledge is required
Examples American Journal of Botany, The Academy of Management Journal, Social Research Runner's World, Ebony, Time