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SCHOLARLY JOURNAL ARTICLES V. MAGAZINE ARTICLES
Two Kinds of Articles--How to Differentiate Between Them?

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Do you have trouble distinguishing between journal articles and magazine articles? When is it best to use each? What does "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" mean in relation to a journal article? Explore the following links to determine the answers to these questions, and more:


Differentiating Between Journal and Magazine Articles

Use the following table contrasting the general characteristics of both journal and magazine articles to help you differentiate between them.

(Note: Not all journals and magazines will necessarily display all these characteristics; when in doubt about the other criteria, pay special attention to the presence or absence of references.)

Characteristics Scholarly
Journal
Magazine
General Appearance
  • Much text
  • Few if any illustrations
  • Many charts, graphs, equations
  • In electronic format: Cover won't show; illustrations/charts may not show
  • Glossy
  • Many illustrations,
    often in color
  • Few charts, graphs
  • No equations
  • In electronic format: Cover won't show; illustrations/charts may not show
Length
  • Longer, often 10+ pages
  • Provides in-depth analysis of topics
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
  • Shorter, often under 5 pages
  • Provides broader overviewof topics
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
References
  • Includes a bibliography or works cited list at the end of the article to document sources
  • May include extensive footnotes also
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
  • Usually does not include a bibliography or footnotes
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
Authorship
  • Author is usually an expert/specialist in the field
  • Author's name and credentials/affiliation are always provided
  • In electronic format: If available, obvious in e-version
  • Author is usually a staff writer or freelance journalist, not an expert in the field
  • Author's name and credentials/affiliation are often not included
  • In electronic format: If available, obvious in e-version
Editing Process:

Peer-Reviewed / Refereed?

Or Not?

  • Scholarly journal articles are usually evaluated critically before publication by several independent experts in the field.
  • This evaluation process is called peer review or refereeing.
  • After these scholarly articles are peer-reviewed or refereed, they are either published if deemed worthy, or are rejected.
  • In electronic format: In some electronic databases, an option to limit a search to scholarly (peer-reviewed) or refereed online journals is available.
  • Magazine articles are reviewed by staff editors before a decision to publish is made.
  • Articles are not peer-reviewed or refereed.
  • In electronic format: In some electronic databases, an option to limit a search to scholarly (peer-reviewed) or refereed online journals is available.

    Please Note: Using this tool would eliminate magazine articles from search results. So if after using this feature the article in question disappears from the results list, it is from a magazine!

Audience
  • Written in technical language
  • Intended for scholarly readers (professors, students, researchers)
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
  • Written in everyday, non-technical language
  • Intended for the general reading public
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
Format / Structure
  • Often very structured
  • Often report results of research studies
  • Often feature sections such as
    • Abstract
    • Literature Review
    • Methodology
    • Results
    • Conclusion
    • Bibliography
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
  • Relatively unstructured
  • Do not usually report research results
  • Usually do not have standard sections typical of research reports
  • In electronic format: Obvious in e-version
Advertising
  • Few, if any, ads
  • If any, ads are usually for books, professional conferences, other journals.
  • No ads for commercial consumer products.
  • In electronic format: Typically, ads do not appear in e-version
  • Many color ads
  • Ads feature consumer products
  • In electronic format: Typically, ads do not appear in e-version
Publisher
  • Often published by professional associations, academic honor societies, etc.
  • In electronic format: May not be obvious in e-version
  • Usually published by commercial enterprises or individuals
  • In electronic format: May not be obvious in e-version
Examples:
  • Journal of Marriage and the Family

  • Studies in Short Fiction

  • Time
  • Psychology Today
  • New Yorker
Best to use when:
  • You need a scholarly, in-depth treatment of a topic about which you already know the basics
  • You need a broad overview of the basics on a topic with which you're unfamiliar
Characteristics Scholarly
Journal
Magazine

(This table was based on content in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University's Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines page and the University of Texas at San Antonio Library's Scholarly Journals v. Popular Magazine Articles page, and is used with permission.)

The presence of a list of references or a bibliography at the end of an article is the most obvious attribute of a journal article. Magazine articles do not include bibliographies or references to works cited.


Still need help? Contact the reference staff at
reference@barton.edu, call us at (252) 399-6502, or drop by when we're open for further assistance.

Last updated March 3, 2010

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