Academic Journals vs. Popular Magazines and Newspapers

Academic journals (also known as periodicals or serials) publish the world's most recent research in all disciplines.  Popular magazines are primarily designed to entertain as well as inform. Newspapers are also primarily designed to inform and also entertain.

Watch this short video on the difference between academic and popular sources and download the pdf version of this table.

Academic Journals

Popular Magazines and Newspapers

Appearance is very formal and serious-looking and often contains graphs and charts and no glossy pictures.

Magazines: Appearance is eye-catching and full of glossy images (e.g., photographs, cartoons, advertisements).

Newspapers: Appearance is eye-catching and full of images (e.g., photographs, cartoons, advertisements) but usually printed on matte newsprint, not glossy paper.

Journal articles report actual research findings and/or review key principles and assumptions.
 
Articles report briefly on news items or subjects of interest to the general public.
 
Every article contains cited references: footnotes or bibliographies, reference lists or works cited.
 
Articles typically do not contain cited references.
Articles are all written by scholars in a particular discipline who have done extensive research in their field. The language of the article is geared towards other scholars  in the same field. Articles are written by staff writers or freelance journalists. The authors makes no assumptions about the background knowledge of the reader and the language is non-technical.
Articles are usually structured and may include sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results and conclusion.
 
Articles do not usually follow a particular structure.
Each article is peer-reviewed (critically evaluated by a board of experts in the discipline) before publication. Note: Book reviews are not peer reviewed.
 
Articles are not peer-reviewed.
Usually published by professional organizations and societies, or large publishers that specialize in academic publications.
 
Informative in a general manner and are published by commercial organizations for broad audiences.

Locating Academic Journals

Many of our databases allow you to limit your searches to  "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" journals.  Use Ulrichsweb to determine if a particular journal is academic in nature.

Content last updated: January 23, 2018