In some of your classes the instructor may require that the articles you use in your research paper come from scholarly journals. The characteristics listed below will help you distinguish scholarly journals from other publications.

Characteristics of scholarly journals

  • Most scholarly journals can be identified by the words ‘Journal of’ appearing in the title, as in the case of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and The American Journal of Public Health.
  • Scholarly journals have a serious, professional look. The articles tend to be lengthy and are many times accompanied by tables and/or charts, and the publication itself features very few advertisements.
  • They are usually published by professional organizations or associations for the purpose of disseminating current research and information to individuals in a specific area of study who are already familiar with the terminology and subject matter.
  • They are typically peer-reviewed or refereed, which means that the articles published in them have been subjected to a rigorous editing and approval process by other scholars in that field of study to ensure that the submitted information is credible, timely, and the result of sound research practices. A list of the individuals or the editorial board responsible for the reviewing process is given in the opening pages of each issue.
  • The name of the author responsible for each article, along with his credentials, is always provided.
  • The title of each article accurately reflects its content.
  • Each article begins with an abstract (a short summary paragraph about the article) and includes a bibliography of cited sources at the end of the article.

Periodicals that are not scholarly journals

  • News magazines like Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. Although they may discuss complex issues they do not provide the same in-depth analysis as a scholarly publication and are intended to be read by a more general audience.
  • Opinion magazines such as New Republic, National Review, and Nation. These magazines are aimed at an educated audience but are not scholarly in intent. They comment of current events and issues and typically offer a single viewpoint.
  • Popular magazines like Sports Illustrated, People, and Reader’s Digest. These magazines are intended for entertainment as opposed to educational purposes and typically contain numerous advertisements.