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Scholarly vs Popular Sources: Getting Started

What are periodicals?

A periodical is any type of publication that is published at regular intervals in a series throughout the year such as magazines, journals, or newpapers.

  • Magazine: a collection of articles about diverse topic of general interest and current events. Usually these are written by journalists and geared toward the general public.
  • Journal: a journal is a collection of articles written by scholars in an academic or professional field.
  • Newspaper: a newspaper is a collection of articles about current events usually published daily. 


This guide describes the different types of periodicals and will help you distinguish between scholarly journals and popular magazines.

Video: Scholarly vs Popular Periodicals

This video answers the question:  "What is a peer-reviewed journal?" After watching this video, you should be able to:

  • Describe the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals
  • Identify an author’s credentials and qualifications for writing in a scholarly journal
  • Identify the peer review process
  • Define periodicals

Source: (Eli Moody, Peabody Library, Vanderbilt University)

What are peer reviewed journals?

Peer review is designed to protect the quality of published research. When authors submit articles to peer reviewed journals, their work is reviewed by experts in the same field (peers) prior to publication. These peers assess the quality of the research and determine whether it has relevance for their field and whether it is appropriate for publication in that journal.

The most prestigious journals use a blind peer revew process where any information that might reveal the identity of the author(s) has been removed before the article is sent to the peer reviewers. This ensures that the work is judged on its merits alone not on the reputation or past accomplishments of the author(s). 

For periodicals that do not rely on peer review, the decision to publish is made by the editor(s). Although editors impose quality control, greater value is attributed to research that has undergone peer review prior to publication. 

Contribution Note

This guide was originally created by Dr. Nancy Becker.