Is This Journal Scholarly?

Professors will often require that you use articles from scholarly journals for research projects.  Morgan Library’s online databases and print collection contain scholarly journals, trade journals, and popular magazines, and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the difference.  This checklist summarizes criteria for each area of periodical literature.


Scholarly Journals

Trade Journals

Popular Magazines


To present and report on original research findings in a specific field / discipline

To identify profession / industry trends and developments, and provide practical advice

To inform and entertain a general audience, produced and sold for profit


Plain, “serious” cover

Text with black & white graphs, charts, and photographs which support the author’s research

  • Generally glossy cover
  • Color photographs and illustrations used to support the article as well as draw in readers
  • Glossy cover
  • Color photographs and illustrations used to support the article as well as draw in readers


Expert, scholar, or researcher in the field / discipline

Practitioner within the profession / industry or specialty journalist

Magazine writer or free-lance writer.  Credentials often not provided

Structure & Writing Style

  • Lengthy articles with abstract, literature review, methodology, results conclusion, and bibliography
  • Uses technical terminology of the specific field / discipline
  • Brief articles with no set structure
  • Uses jargon of the specific profession / industry
  • Usually brief articles but can be longer and sometimes structured
  • Uses simple language , meeting a minimum education level


Articles reviewed and evaluated by other experts in the field / discipline (peer reviewed / refereed)

Articles may be reviewed by one editor with knowledge related to the topic

Articles are not evaluated by experts in the discipline, but by editors on staff


Each article includes full footnotes and/or bibliographies

Some articles include brief footnotes and/or bibliographies

Very few articles include bibliographies


  • American Journal of Education
  • Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
  • Modern Fiction Studies
  • Indiana Business
  • Instrumentalist
  • Preaching




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