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A scholarly periodical (sometimes referred to as peer-reviewed journal or a refereed journal) publishes the results of original and significant research in a particular discipline. A popular periodical (a magazine, newsmagazine, or newspaper) publishes shorter pieces, news items, descriptions or summaries of research findings (but not the original research papers themselves), and/or information of interest to non-specialists or the general public. The chart below compares these two types of periodicals characteristic by characteristic.


Characteristic Scholarly Popular

Published in order to transmit the findings of original research in a field, to expand that field’s base of published knowledge and to act as a stepping stone for further research.

Published to inform, entertain, or persuade.


Undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, practitioners, faculty, and others with a specialized knowledge of the field.

General public; those without specialized knowledge.


Articles written by researchers, professionals or experts in the field.

Articles often written by reporters or other paid staff writers or by freelance writers.

Review Process

Scholarly journals are known as "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" because their articles are screened and approved by researchers and experts in the field (the author's "peers") before they are accepted for publication. Reviewers usually do not have any affiliation with the journal that they are reviewing an article for. Only articles of superior quality and value to the field will pass the review process.

Articles are reviewed and approved for publication by the periodical's editor.

Publication Frequency

Scholarly journals are usually published monthly, bimonthly or quarterly (4 times a year). Scholarly journals emphasize quality over quantity in the articles that they publish.

Popular periodicals generate many articles and are usually published daily, weekly or monthly.


Now that you know the characteristics that make these types of publications different, you should be able to differentiate one from the other. Still not sure? Here are a few clues from the publications' appearance and content that may help you distinguish scholarly from popular. These clues aren't steadfast rules, though, and exceptions abound in both categories. If you are not sure whether a particular publication is scholarly or popular, ask your professor or a librarian.

The Cover: Click your mouse on the orange letters to view explanatory pop-up windows.



The Content: Click your mouse on the orange letters to view explanatory pop-up windows.



excerpted from Journal of Homosexuality, volume 45, numbers 2/3/4, 2003





excerpted from The Advocate, July 22, 2003

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