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Is it Scholarly?

Scholarly journals, popular magazines and trade magazines are all important sources for current information in a field of study. This guide provides a list of characteristics to help distinguish between these three types of publications.


The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to publish original research so that the findings are available to the rest of the scholarly world. A scholarly journal will contain journal articles that report new research or review past research.

The appearance of the scholarly journal itself may be plain or have very little design, it may be printed on plain paper and have black and white graphics and illustrations.

Scholarly journal articles:

  • are signed by the author(s)
  • are written by an expert or scholar in the field
  • cite their sources as a bibliography or list of references
  • include the language of the discipline that is being studied and assumes that the reader will have some background in the subject being studied
  • may include an abstract at the beginning of the article
  • will provide the author's credentials and affiliations
  • are usually peer reviewed or refereed

"Peer reviewed" or "Refereed" is a formal process undertaken by experts in a field to determine the quality of an article before it is accepted and published in a journal.

You can determine if a journal is peer reviewed by checking the first few pages of a journal issue for a list of reviewers or an editorial board and the editorial policy. Or, search for the journal online, and then check the "Instructions for authors" or "Submission Guidelines". Usually, a peer-reviewed journal will state that submissions are judged by a panel of reviewers.

You may also wish to check the Ulrich's Periodicals Directory - vol. 4 for a comprehensive (although not complete) list of refereed journals. (Ref. Z 6941 U45 Located in Ready Reference Collection behind Research Help Desk).

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

Journal of Public Policy PER H 96 J68
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy PER HQ 1 J48
Nursing Clinics of North America PER RT 1 N967

Magazines that fall in this category are usually eye-catching, contain colour pictures and illustrations and are printed on glossy paper. The articles are written by journalists for a general audience to inform and entertain.

Popular magazines:

  • may contain unsigned articles
  • contain articles of general interest about personalities, current news items, etc.
  • will contain many advertisements

Examples of Popular Magazines

Maclean's PER AP 5 M16
Chatelaine PER AP 5 C5
Newsweek PER AP 2 N55
Sports Illustrated PER GV 561 S76

Trade magazines are written for the members of a specific industry. The articles are written to inform these members of business trends, new products or techniques and organizational news.

Trade magazines:

  • will contain articles written by staff or contributing authors
  • will contain advertisements related to the profession
  • will provide a forum for job postings

Examples of Trade Magazines:

Communique PER RT 1 C69 CGA
CGA Magazine PER HF 5601 C14 HR
Focus PER HF 5549 A2P2

Created and maintained by the Reference Staff, Lakehead University Library,
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Is My Source Scholarly?

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