How do I search for articles published only in scholarly/research journals, or for articles published only in popular magazines--and how do I tell the difference?


Many of the article databases include scholarly, academic, refereed or peer-reviewed articles. These articles are considered the "gold standard" of academic publishing. However, even the databases that are largely focused on scholarly journals may include a minority of popular magazines. Check the "About" link for a given database to see what types of content it includes.

A growing number of databases have capabilities to let you search by or limit to scholarly journals. Look for this feature on the search screen. In most cases, as you evaluate a given article you can tell whether it is popular or scholarly by the nature of the article itself.

Scholarly or academic journal articles:

  • Contain long articles (5+ pages)
  • Articles always have bibliographies, footnotes or cited reference pages.
  • Use technical or specialized vocabulary.
  • Publish articles written by academics, specialists or researchers in the field (as opposed to articles written by journalists reporting on or synthesizing research).
  • Examples include: New England Journal of Medicine, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Religion

Popular articles:

  • Tend to have short articles (1-5 pages).
  • Articles contain no bibliography or cited reference page.
  • Use conversational language, as opposed to a specialized vocabulary.
  • Newspapers are considered a popular source
  • Examples include: Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Sports Illustrated, New York Times
  • Try a database like MasterFile Premiere (1975 - present)


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