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Scholarly and Non-scholarly Sources
Magazine or Journal Article: How Do You Know?

You may sometimes see the terms "magazine" and "journal" used interchangeably to indicate any publication that is published regularly, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. (You can know a regular publication because its issues are marked with some sort of numbering system and/or a date.) The table below provides some helpful tips for distinguishing between the two types of publications.

Titles do not always reveal the source type. Not all journals have the word "journal" in their titles!  Most of the time databases include both types of sources, but you may encounter a strictly scholarly database.  Read the database description. 

Time Magazine

American Journal of Psychotherapy

(non-scholarly–popular literature)

(scholarly–peer reviewed)


Computer World
Science News

Journal of Applied Math
Yale Review
Comparative Literature


Articles are fairly short, providing an overview on a focused topic.

Long, in-depth analysis of topics, sometimes very narrowly focused. Reports on original research.


Written in non-technical language for non-expert readers.

Language can be full of technical jargon.  Written for researchers, professors or students in a particular field. 


Often glossy paper, lots of pictures, sidebars. Articles do not follow a specific format.

Plain paper, sometimes figures, charts and tables included.  Articles follow a specific structure: Abstract, literature overview, methodology or analysis, conclusion, references.


Author is usually a staff writer or reporter.  Name and credentials are not always indicated.

Author is usually an expert in a particular field: a scholar or researcher with noted credentials.


Articles are not reviewed by experts, but by magazine staff members (editors).

Articles are reviewed by members of an editorial board who are experts in the field.


A bibliography is usually not provided.

Sources are cited with footnotes and bibliographies (work cited) documenting the research thoroughly.


Includes many general consumer ads.

Ads, if any, are limited to other journals, special services or products in a specific field.



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