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*ENGL 1010: Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Sources*

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals


What does it mean, and why does it matter?

Sources available to you as you conduct research will vary quite a bit in purpose, audience, and reliability.  One important distinguishing characteristic is whether a periodical is considered popular or academic/scholarly.  You will need to learn how to tell them apart, as well as determine which type is more appropriate for your information needs.     


McMaster Libraries. How Library Stuff Works: Scholarly vs Popular Sources. YouTube. Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed).


Popular Magazines

All of us have seen these at one time or another.  Think about the magazines you find in grocery, drug, and book stores.  In popular magazines, you will generally find lots of advertisements and articles illustrated with several pictures. Popular magazines are written for the general public, usually for entertainment, general information, or keeping up with current events.


The publishing process

Popular magazines are normally written and edited by professional journalists.  The authors who write the articles are usually not subject experts, but have hopefully done adequate and appropriate research in preparing the article.  The editor has final say on what gets printed in the magazine.


  • Popular Science
  • Newsweek
  • Sports Illustrated
  • People
What you might use them for: Finding examples of print advertisements, finding current interest topics, discussion of current interest topics.



Academic or Scholarly Journals

Academic/scholarly journals are written for students, faculty and professionals, and usually contain high quality articles.  Research results are generally published in these types of periodicals.  Limited advertising is geared toward the specific audience that reads the journal.  Articles only have pictures if they are important to the content, not for decoration.  Charts and graphs are common for presenting data. 


The publishing process

Articles in academic/scholarly journals are written by subject experts, as opposed to journalists that write for popular magazines.  The editor who makes the final decision on what is published also has expertise in the domain covered by the journal.

Peer-Reviewed Journals:   Peer review adds an additional level of reliability.  Not only are these articles written by subject experts, they are also reviewed by other subject experts for quality before being accepted for publication. 

McMaster Libraries. How Library Stuff Works: Peer Review. YouTube. Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)



  • Adult Learning
  • American Nurse Today
  • Journal of Property Management
  • The Science Teacher
  • Library Journal
What you might use them for: Finding research about various topics; analysis of events and topics



Trade Magazines

Trade Magazines are usually published by a professional organization for its members and others in the field.


The publishing process

Trade Magazines are generally written and edited by practitioners in a field.


  • Techniques - Association for Career and Technical Education 
  • Young Children - National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Science and Children - National Science Teachers Association
  • Management Review - American Management Association
  • American Anthropologist - American Anthropological Society
  • CMA Today - American Association of Medical Assistants
What you might use them for: Finding articles about current practice in a field