Periodicals: Popular Magazines or Scholarly Journals

Magazines and journals are called periodicals because they are issued on a regular or “periodic” basis. Periodicals are usually separated into two major groups: popular and scholarly. If you are able to recognize the differences between a popular and scholarly source, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of articles you need.

For much of your research, you will rely on scholarly journals, which are also referred to as peer-reviewed journals or refereed journals.

What’s in them?

Scholarly: Articles presenting original research or events related to a specific discipline

Popular: Articles about current events and popular culture, opinion pieces, fiction, self-help tips.

Who writes them?

Scholarly: Professors, researchers, or professionals; credentials are usually stated in article

Popular: Staff writers or free-lancers; names or credentials often not stated

Who reads them?

Scholarly: Scholars (professors, researchers, students) knowledgeable about a specific discipline

Popular: General public

What do they look like?

Scholarly: Mostly text supported by black and white figures, graphs, tables, or charts; few advertisements

Popular: Glossy, color photographs, easy-to-read layout, plenty of advertising

What are their advantages?

Scholarly: Articles are usually critically evaluated by experts before they can be published (peer-reviewed). Footnotes or bibliographies support research and point to further research on a topic. Authors describe methodology and supply data used to support research results.

Popular: Written for non-specialists. Timely coverage of popular topics and current events. Provide broad overview of topics. Good source for topics related to popular culture.

What are their disadvantages?

Scholarly: Articles often use technical jargon and can be difficult for non-specialists to read. Scholarly journals are expensive and may not be as readily available. Research and review process take time; not as useful for current events or popular culture.

Popular: Articles are selected by editors who may know very little about a topic. Authors usually do not cite sources. Published to make a profit; the line between informing and selling may be blurred.