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Feminist Studies: Subject Guide: Scholarly vs popular

Resources for your feminist studies research in the Smith Library Center and on the Web

Characteristics of scholarly journals versus popular magazines




How can you tell the difference
between these two types of
periodical articles?

Feminist Review is published by Palgrave Macmillan, a commercial publisher that produces academic publications.

The Progressive is a political left-leaning journalistic magazine that published for more than 100 years.


Longer articles, providing
in-depth analysis of topics

Shorter articles, providing
broader overviews of topics


Author usually an expert or specialist in the field, name and credentials always provided

Author usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided


Written in the specialized vocabulary of the field for scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students)

Written in non-technical vocabulary for anyone to understand


Articles usually more structured, may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography

Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure

Special Features

Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs

Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes


Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (refereed)

Articles are not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff


A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly

A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text

 This table adapted from an original provided courtesy of the University of Texas San Antonio Library

More tips

Many of our databases, including Academic Search Complete, allow you to refine your search to limit results to scholarly (also called peer-reviewed or refereed) articles. Some others, such as JSTOR and Project Muse, contain only scholarly material.

Depending on the nature of your research, both scholarly journals and popular magazines can be valuable sources. Your professors will tell you what kinds of sources are acceptable for specific assignments.

Examples of a popular and a scholarly article:

Popular: Raskin, Jonah. "Doris Lessing." Progressive 63, no. 6 (June 1999): 36. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 16, 2012).

Scholarly: Watkins, Susan. "Remembering Home: Nation and Identity in the Recent Writing of Doris Lessing." Feminist Review, No. 85, Political Hystories (2007), pp. 97-11.
If you are unable to find enough information to determine whether a journal is scholarly or not, ask a librarian for help.


"Periodicals" are ongoing publications that come out with new individual issues over time, such as People Weekly, The New York Times, or Feminist Studies. Each issue of a periodical contains unique articles, which can be identified by using indexes and databases. Periodicals can be generally classified as scholarly journals (also called "peer-reviewed") or non-scholarly. Non-scholarly periodicals include popular and journalistic sources--magazines or newspapers.  

Scholarly journals like Feminist Studies, popular magazines like People Weekly, and newspapers like The New York Times, each have different editorial processes and it is important to know the clues that will help you distinguish one type of periodical from another so you can use the kinds of sources your professors require you to use for particular assignments. Below is a PDF with a chart that will help.