What is a Scholarly Journal?: Side-By-Side Comparisons

Comparing Periodicals

Sometimes, you can tell by the cover if a periodical is a scholarly journal, a general magazine or a popular magazine:

New England Journal of Medicine The Economist Rolling Stone
Scholarly journal covers are often "boring" compared to other periodicals. Their covers are often thicker and not as glossy as magazines. General / News periodicals usually have pictures and standard writing on their covers. Popular magazines are nearly always filled with graphics. They tend to be flashier, have a great deal of writing on the cover and often feature pictures of celebrities.


You can sometimes also tell by the table of contents:

New England Journal of Medicine The Economist Rolling Stone
This scholarly journal features articles written in "scholarly" or academic language and is published by the Massachusetts Medical Society, a professional organization. Authors are given for each article and there are no graphics.
This general periodical features articles written in general language that most educated people would understand. These articles are meant to inform, but not to the extent that scholarly journals are.  This table of content also features graphics.
This popular magazine features articles that anyone can read and understand. These articles are meant to entertain, not so much to inform.  This magazine features photographs of celebrities in it's table of contents.


Usually, you can tell scholarly journals by their articles:

New England Journal of Medicine The Economist Rolling Stone
Scholarly journals are ALWAYS written by experts in the field. This original article is written by a group of doctors. Scholarly articles often include an abstract, or summary, at the beginning of the article. And finally, there will always be references given (or work cited).  This article gives 33 references at the end of the article.
General periodicals can be written by a variety of people from scholars to staff writers.  This article doesn't give the author's name. General articles are often informative but tend not to go into great depth or provide original research. They also tend to include graphics.
Popular magazines are written mainly for enjoyment. Articles tend to be shorter and rarely provide any depth of information.  This article is written by one of the magazine's staff.


Sometimes, you can tell by the ads:

New England Journal of Medicine The Economist Rolling Stone
Many scholarly journals do not have any ads. If they do, the ads are very minimal and usually relate to the topic of the journal.  This scholarly journal features adds for conferences, medicines and job openings.
General periodicals usually have several ads aimed at the readers of that particular periodical.  This periodical, The Economist, features ads aimed at business professionals.
Popular magazines are filled with ads -- sometimes it seems like there are as many ads as there are regular pages.  This magazine features a wide variety of ads from clothing to alcohol to t.v. shows.  As you can tell in the above scan, these ads are very slick and glossy.