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College Readiness

What makes it scholarly?

Academic or scholarly journals articles are written by experts in a particular scholarly field and read by other experts in that same field.  They are good sources for research since the articles are most often peer-reviewed, that is checked by other experts working in the same area to make sure the information is both accurate and timely.  

Academic journals look very different from trade publications or magazines.  While magazines usually have glossy, colorful covers and advertisements throughout, academic journals often look rather plain, with only simple black text and few pictures.  But inside a database those visual cues are not present and it can be harder to tell if the article you found was originally published in a magazine or an academic journal.  To determine whether an article in a databse is from a magazine or an academic journal look for the following clues:

  • Author's Name and Credentials--Academic journals will make clear both who the author is and which advanced degrees (MA, PhD, etc) they have earned or with which university they are associated. Magazines only occasionally name the author and seldom list the author's credentials.
  • Article Length--Magazine articles are generally short (1-6 pages), while articles in scholarly journals tend to be much longer (15+ pages), especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Works Cited or Bibliographies--Writers in academic journals are careful to list all their sources using either footnotes or endnote citations.  If your aticle does not have cited references to other works, then it is not from an academic journal.

What is a Scholarly Journal?

(University of Washington)

Popular Magazine v. Academic Journal

Scholarly Journal Article Non-scholarly Journal Article

To share with other scholars the results

of primary research and experiments

To entertain or inform in a broad,

general sense


Researchers; Academic faculty &


General public

A respected Scholar or researcher in the

field; an expert on the topic; author's

names are always noted

A journalist or feature writer;

authors' names not always noted


A professional association; a

university or scholarly commercial


A commercial publisher.

Very basic layout, usually black text on

white paper; tables or charts to illustrate 

research components; advertising is at 

a minimum and is subject-related.

Often printed on glossy paper with 

colored text or headlines; usually has

accompanying photographs and many




Experts (peers) in the field review each

article submission before publication 

acceptance (i.e. peer reviewed).

Writers are often employed by the 

magazine or publisher; acceptance is

based largely on the topic's consumer

appeal; not peer reviewed.


College-level; specialized vocabulary

or jargon of the discipline

Non-technical, converstational/simple




Often lengthy (approximately 10-30


Often short (approximately 1-10 




& References

Highly-structured; include abstracts, 

review of literature, methodology, and

citations to sources; always contain a

bibliography of references.

Loosely-structured; rarely have 

bibliographies; sometimes informally

mention sources.


American Journal of Political Science,

Policy Studies Review,

New England Journal of Medicine

Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report,


Rolling Stone

(Cornell College)

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