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Information Literacy Tutorial

A module-based information literacy tutorial that addresses each stage of the research process, including selecting a topic, identifying information needs, selecting sources, locating information, evaluating information, and citing sources.

Popular Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals

  Popular Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals 


It is important to learn to distinguish between popular magazines and scholarly journals.  Not only will your professors often ask you to use only scholarly journals, but it's important that you understand the different purpose of different types of publications so that you may evaluate the information you find. 

Note that popular magazines and scholarly journals are types of periodicals. A periodical is any publication produced periodically, that is, in regularly recurring intervals.  Examples include journals, magazines, and newspapers.  Periodicals are often also referred to as serials. 

When people hear the word periodical, they often think of articles.  The articles in periodicals can run from a single paragraph story in a newspaper to a 40 page study in a scholarly journal.   

Periodical articles are published in separate issues of the publication.  When you pick up a copy of Time magazine, you are holding an issue of the periodical entitled Time.  Often, especially in more scholarly periodicals, the articles in an issue of a periodical will all have a common theme.  For example, an issue of English Journal frequently devotes an entire issue to a topic, such as student assessment. 

Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals

  • Articles written by journalists or staff writers
  • As a result, the articles are viewed as having less credibility
  • Written in non-technical language that a broad audience will understand
  • An issue may contain articles on a wide variety of topics
  • Articles do not follow any format
  • Contain commercial ads
  • Authors are experts or specialists in their given field
  • As a result, the articles are viewed as having more credibility
  • Written using the technical terms and jargon that are associated with the author’s expertise
  • An issue usually has articles on a narrower range of topics
  • Articles usually (but not always) follow a set format, starting with an abstract and ending with a bibliography
  • Sometimes (but not always) contain highly specialised ads that relate to the field



Notice the terminology used.  Popular magazines are usually called popular magazines.  Scholarly journals are usually called scholarly journals.  Scholarly journals are also sometimes called academic journals.

There is a subset of scholarly journals called peer-reviewed journals.  Peer-reviewed journals are the crème de la crème of scholarly journals.  In order to be published in peer-reviewed journals, the articles must be approved by recognised experts in the field that the article discusses.  The publication process goes like this:  

So, remember, the breakdown of popular magazines vs. scholarly journals looks like this:






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