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Popular vs. Scholarly Articles - Guide

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This guide is designed to teach the differences between popular and scholarly articles.

Popular Articles (Magazines)

  • Are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience
  • Use language easily understood by general readers
  • Rarely give full citations for sources
  • Written for the general public
  • Tend to be shorter than journal articles

Examples of Popular Magazines:

Business Week cover Time cover Discover cover
US New & World Report cover Astronomy cover  


Scholarly Articles (Journals)

  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars (chemists, historians, doctors, artists, etc.)
  • Uses scholarly or technical language
  • Tend to be longer articles about research
  • Include full citations for sources 
  • Are often refereed or peer reviewed (articles are reviewed by an editor and other specialists before being accepted for publication)
  • Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

American Journal of Political Science cover Business History Review cover International Journal of Middle East Studies cover
Child Development cover The Classical Review cover  

Some points to remember:

  • Both magazine and journal articles can be good sources for your work. 
  • When selecting articles, think about how you intend to use the information: 
    • Do you want background on a topic new to you? (use magazines)  
    • Did your teacher say to cite scholarly resources? (use journals)  
  • Often a combination of the two will be most appropriate for undergraduate research. 


Last modified: December 15, 2015