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Methods in Ecology & Evolution: Is it scholarly?

Second Half of Methods Course

Characteristics of scholarly journals versus popular magazines


Characteristics

Scholarly

Popular


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


Length

Longer articles, providing
in-depth analysis of topics

Shorter articles, providing
broader overviews of topics


Authorship

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


Language/Audience

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

Written in non-technical language for anyone to understand


Format/Structure

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


Editors

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


Credits

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 courtesy of the University of Texas San Antonio Library

What is Peer-reviewed?

What Does "Peer Reviewed" or "Refereed" Mean?

Peer Review is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their opinion on the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc.  The review process helps ensure that the published articles reflect solid scholarship in the field of study.

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, New Scientist) just rely on the judgment of the editors whether an article is up to snuff or not. That's why you can't count on them for solid, scientific scholarship.

How do I know if a journal is peer reviewed?

If you are not certain, you should look at the journal's Editorial Statement or Instructions to Authors for a description of the process authors are required to go through. Another good source for this information is the journal's website. You can also ask your professor or a librarian for help. 

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, for example 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.

If you are unable to find enough information to determine if a journal is scholarly, ask a librarian for help.