Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Identifying Scholarly/Professional Journal Articles

How can you tell if something is scholarly, professional, or popular? Here are a few clues.

Scholarly and Popular Sources

Identifying Scholarly/Professional Articles

Cover of a scholarly journal

Cover of a popular magazine



Look at the Articles:

1. May have abstract at beginning.

Look at the Articles:

1. May lack or include only a short abstract at the beginning.

2. Authors' credentials or research institution may be listed. 2. Author's credentials or research institutions are not listed.
3. Has a list of references or bibliography at the end. 3. No references or bibliography at the end.
4. Articles have a very serious tone. 4. Articles may be written in a chatty or easy-to-read style.
5. If images are included, they serve to support the research in the article. 5. Images are used to draw attention, but don't provide substantial supporting material.

Look at the Citation:

6. May have journal or bulletin in the periodical title.

    Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
    Journal of Soil & Water

Look at the Citation:

6. May have magazine or popular words in periodical title.

    Mother Jones
    People Weekly

7. Article titles are longer and research-sounding, nothing catchy. 7. Article titles may be short, may include catchy phrases or puns.
8. Articles frequently have more than one author. 8. Articles are often staff-written.
9. Articles are longer – more than three pages. 9. Articles are shorter, usually under three pages.
10. Issued less often; quarterly, semi-annually or monthly. 10. Issued often – weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

Look at the Periodicals:

11. Few or no illustrations; little color.

Look at the Periodicals:

11. Heavily illustrated, with color.

12. No advertising. 12. Has advertisements.
13. Matte paper. 13. Glossy Paper.
14. Lists editorial board members on inside pages. 14. Uses eye-catching typography and layout.


15. Not something you'd find on a newsstand.


15. Something you may find on a newsstand.

For assistance
If you need further assistance, please stop by the Info & Research Help Desk, use our live chat service, or call (401) 874-2653.

Created and Updated

Created by M. Keefe, 12/00

Revised by A. Izenstark, 6/05, 5/10, 6/11

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.