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Sociology: Journals

This resource guide is aimed at helping patrons find material which will aid in his research.

Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly vs. Popular Materials Guide

When conducting research it is important to distinguish between journal articles and magazine articles. Journal articles are typically referred to as "scholarly," while magazine articles are usually considered "popular". A third category, "trade" magazines or journals, are written for professionals in a particular field but are not strictly research related. Below are additional criteria to consider when differentiating between journals and magazines.



Scholarly Journal

Popular Magazine

Trade Magazine/Journal



Social Work Journal


Psychology Today



Content (Accuracy)

In-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher(s); very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication.

Secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform.

Current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry.

Author (Authority)

Author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise.

Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise.

Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.

Audience (Coverage)

Scholars, researchers, and students.

General public; the interested non-specialist.

Professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist.

Language (Coverage)

Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area.

Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers.

Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal.

Graphics (Coverage)

Graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs.

Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs.

Photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.

Layout & Organization (Currency)

Structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.

Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion.

Informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge.

Accountability (Objectivity)

Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers* or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style.

Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style.

Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed*; edited for format and style.

References (Objectivity)

Required. Quotes and facts are verifiable.

Rare. Little, if any, information about source materials is given.

Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.


Page numbers are consecutive throughout the volume.

Each issue begins with page 1.

Each issue begins with page 1.

Other Examples

Scholarly Journal
Annals of Mathematics, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, History of Education Quarterly, Almost anything with Journal in the title.

Popular Magazine
Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, Cooking Light, Discover

Trade Magazine/Journal
Architectural Record, PC World, Restaurant Business, American Libraries, Psychology Today, School Band and Orchestra

Peer Reviewed Journals (also known as refereed) are articles that are critically assessed by other scholars in the author's field or specialty before they are accepted for publication. Peer-reviewed journals can be identified by editorial statements or instructions to authors which are usually in first few pages of the journal of at the end. 

* For more information about the peer-review process view this video: Peer Review in Five Minutes.  (NCSU LIBRARIES)


 Acknowledgement: This is a modified version of a document originally created by librarians at the University of Michigan Shapiro Undergraduate Library and North Carolina State University Library.





G.R. Little Library

Elizabeth City State University