Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

General Databases and News Sources: WHAT'S A SCHOLARLY JOURNAL?


Your professor has asked you to find a scholarly, professional, academic, peer-reviewed*, or refereed* journal as opposed to a popular magazine. There is no clear-cut definition, but here are some clues to help you distinguish between them.

Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines
Written for Professors & scholars General public
Written by Scholars, researchers, academics Journalists, staff writers, freelance writers

Serious & sober with few colors

Advertisements and photographs rare

Glossy with advertisements

Many photographs


Are signed and often include author's credentials

Are written in scholarly & specialized language of discipline

Give more detailed discussion of an event


Contain footnotes and bibliographies

Contain charts & graphs

Are not always signed by author

Are written in relatively simple language

Give first reports of an event


Values & uses Reports on original research;
in-depth analysis of topics;
statistical information;
academic book reviews
Current events and news;
hot topics;
brief, factual information;
Examples Advances in Nursing Science
Journal of Abnormal Psychology
Modern Fiction Studies
National Geographic

*Peer-reviewed/Refereed - articles are published only after receiving approval by an editorial board of experts (the author's "peers"). This means that a subject expert must review and correct the article before the journal will publish it. Consequently, peer-reviewed journal articles are typically considered higher quality than non-peer-reviewed articles (adapted from Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries).