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Searching the Web and Databases: Scholarly versus Popular Journals

Resources for learning to search the web efficiently and with better results.

Popular and Scholarly Sources

What are Scholarly or Professional Journals?

The term here refers to scholarly journals, not to diaries or personal accounts.  These are the characteristics of such journals:

Purpose:  Report results of original research, examine existing theories and present new interpretations, review and analyze previous research studies on a topic.

Authors: Scholars with relevant credentials (degrees appropriate to the field of study).

Format: Articles always cite sources in footnotes or bibliographies, may include charts, graphs or tables, but usually few photographs.

Frequency: Many are published quarterly, but some are more frequent.

Language: Assume some scholarly background on the part of the reader, uses terminology of the field or discipline.

Publisher: Often, but not always, published by scholarly or professional organizations.  Some commercial (for profit) publishers also produce scholarly journals.  Journal publishers may require authors to pay production fees.

Selection: Many scholarly journals are “refereed,” that is, a panel of experts reads prospective articles and selects those with scholarly merit.  (“Peer Reviewed” means the same thing as “refereed”.) The journal’s “editorial statement” may indicate whether a journal is refereed.  The library owns guides which also give this information.


How are popular journals (magazines) different? 

Audience: Articles are usually written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience.

Length: Articles are usually shorter than scholarly journal articles.

Author: The author is journalist or professional writer; it is not always clear who the author is.

Style: The Content is easy to comprehend by the general reader.