How do I determine if an article is from a journal or magazine?

Students are often instructed to locate articles from a scholarly or academic journal. The following descriptions may help to decide whether an article would be considered to be "scholarly" (i.e., - from a journal) or "popular" (i.e., - from a general interest magazine). If you are in doubt, consult with a librarian or your professor.

The Characteristics of Scholarly, Trade and Popular Journals

Scholarly Journals

  • illustrations, if any, are graphs and charts, with few glossy color pictures
  • articles are lengthy and list references in footnotes or end notes
  • articles are written by someone who has conducted research in the field and is usually affiliated with a university or research center
  • content of articles reports on original research or experimentation
  • authors write in the language of their discipline; usually other scholars or college students, are assumed to have some knowledge of the field
  • often, but not always, are published by a scholarly professional association
  • few advertisements

Examples: Journal of American Folklore, Shakespeare Quarterly, Sex Roles, International Migration Review, Foreign Affairs.

Trade Journals

  • articles frequently focus on how to do a job better
  • articles usually do not reflect original research
  • journal often publishes job listings
  • articles may not be footnoted or have few footnotes
  • often published by a scholarly professional association
  • usually contain news or information of interest to people in that profession
  • advertisements are aimed at people in that profession

Examples: American Biology Teacher, Police Chief, American Psychologist, Southeastern Librarian.

Popular Magazines

  • articles are short and written to inform or entertain the general public
  • often are illustrated with glossy or color photographs
  • articles are seldom footnoted and the source of information is seldom given
  • authors are usually on the staff of the magazine or are freelance writers
  • advertisements are aimed at the general public

Examples: Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today, People Weekly, Vogue

Reprinted with permission from Boatwright Library at the University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia