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Public Health: Online Program in Chronic Disease: Scholarly vs. Popular Journals

This research guide is for Georgia State's career development program for public health workers.

Scholarly vs. Popular

CriteriaScholarly JournalPopular MagazineTrade Magazine/Journal
The Journal of Biological Chemistry
Time magazine
Publisher's Weekly
Content (Accuracy) In-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher(s); very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication. Secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform. Current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry.
Author (Authority) Author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise. Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise. Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.
Audience (Coverage) Scholars, researchers, and students. General public; the interested non-specialist. Professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist.
Language (Coverage) Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area. Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers. Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal.
Graphics (Coverage) Graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs. Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs. Photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.
Layout & Organization (Currency) Structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion. Informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge.
Accountability (Objectivity) Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers* or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed*; edited for format and style.
References (Objectivity) Required. Quotes and facts are verifiable. Rare. Little, if any, information about source materials is given. Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.
Paging Page numbers are consecutive throughout the volume. Each issue begins with page 1. Each issue begins with page 1.
Other Examples
Scholarly Journal
Annals of Mathematics, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, History of Education Quarterly, Almost anything with Journal in the title.
Popular Magazine
Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, Cooking Light, Discover
Trade Magazine/Journal
Architectural Record, PC World, Restaurant Business, American Libraries, Psychology Today, School Band and Orch


Based on Scholarly vs. Popular Materials by Amy VanScoy, NCSU Library


Is my article peer-reviewed?

Not all published material has the same credibility. Peer-reviewed articles have more authority because they have been scrutinized and approved by scholars in a particular field. In other words, they have been reviewed by the author's peers.  Peer-reviewed articles/journals are also called scholarly or refereed (as opposed to popular and trade journals). To learn more, see this tutorial.

There are several ways to identify peer-reviewed articles:

Limit database searches to only peer-reviewed articles

When searching for articles in databases, look for a search option for limiting to only peer-reviewed articles. In EBSCOhost databases, look for this option on the bottom half of the Advanced Search screen. There is no peer-review search limit option in PubMed or Web of Science.

Search Ulrich's Periodicals Directory

If you're ever unsure whether an article is peer-reviewed, you can look up the journal title in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. Select Title (Exact) in the top right Quick Search box and enter the name of the journal. A referee jersey icon will appear next to the journal title if it is peer-reviewed.