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Is It Scholarly? Identifying Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources

Is It Scholarly? Identifying Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources

Differences at a Glance

Differences at a Glance

Scholarly/Academic Journals

Trade/Professional Journals


academic journals

Print versions are usually plain-looking, with densely printed text and few photographs. May contain ads related to academia or the subject area. Print version ranges from plain to colorful. May contain ads, though these are usually related to the profession or trade Usually visually flashy. May contain lots of ads and be very colorful
Journal websites often not free to the public to read. Articles are often presented in PDF format. Websites may or may not be free to the public. Articles may be offered as PDF, but more often as web pages. Usually free to read online. Rarely available in PDF format.
Articles written by experts (typically, professors or researchers); author's credentials (degree, title, affiliation) and contact information are typically provided Articles may be written by professional journalists, freelance writers, or people working in a particular profession or field (farmers, artists, veteranarians, business people, etc.) Articles typically written by professional journalistsstaff, or freelance writers. Authors may or may not have expertise in the topic being discussed
Written for readers who already know a lot about the topic; specialized vocabulary, long sentences Written for readers who work in a particular field or profession; may contain some vocabulary or jargon specific to the profession Written for a general audience; some may assume a college education, others may be very easy to read.
Featured articles are usually peer-reviewed (the articles are checked & approved by other experts in the field) Articles are not peer-reviewed but are edited for accuracy and style Articles are not peer-reviewed but are edited for accuracy and style
Articles may be long—anywhere from 4 to 40 pages. Articles usually not more than a few pages. Depends on type of magazine; some have longer articles, others very short articles
Typically published no more than 4 times a year Typically published weekly or monthly Typically published weekly or monthly. Newspapers may be published daily. Websites may be updated frequently
Articles usually include footnotes/endnotes and a bibliography/references Articles may include brief bibliographies or citations Articles rarely have citations.

In our online databases you may see this icon:

In our online databases you may see this icon:

In our online databases you may see these icons:



  • JAMA
  • PLOSOne


  • Police Chief
  • RN


  • The New Yorker
  • People