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How to Research: Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Gateway Library general information for your research project

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Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Criteria Magazines Journals
Level: Popular, "easy reading" Scholarly, technical, research based
References: None Yes, good bibliographies and/or footnotes
Advertisements: Lots, general products, foods, household goods, etc. None or only special products aimed at professional users
Audience: Lay people, "just folks" Scholars, students of the field 
Publishers: For-profit corporations Learned societies, professional associations, governmental organizations, education institutions, or others interested in furthering knowledge 
Inclusion: Single editor or board judging piece on interest, style, readability, and conformity to the magazine's purpose 

Editorial board of fellow scholars reviewing the work for validity, reliability, contribution


People, places, general illustrations, few graphs, tables, etc. 

Generally fewer visuals; when included, tend to be tables, graphs, charts


Glossy, "snazzy", colorful, good looking 

Good paper, high quality production


Start with page 1 each issue

Continuous through volume 

* The word "journal" or lack thereof does not necessarily indicate whether or not an item is a journal. Source: Montana State University Libraries (

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