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Research Process

Scholarly versus Popular Articles

When scholars or researchers want to publish their research and findings as an article in a journal, they submit their work to what is called a peer-review process. Their article is sent to other scholars in the same field who analyze it and make sure it is of high quality, relevant, valid, and not just one person's opinion. They then send it back for revisions or approve it for publication.  

Articles in magazines like Time, People, Newsweek, or Psychology Today don't go through a peer review process so you cannot count on them being scholarly. Newspapers are also considered popular sources.

Note: sometimes scholarly articles may be referred to as peer-reviewed articles.

Some reasons why you might use a popular or a scholarly source in research:

  • Newspapers - good for the most up-to-date information on current events and opinion pieces
  • Magazine - good for information on popular culture and current events
  • Scholarly Journals - good for scholarly research on a topic

This table goes over the difference between a scholarly journal article and a popular magazine article:





Articles are written to inform, entertain or persuade

Academic or scientific research articles and information


Covers broad subjects and topics of general interest

Scholarly articles which usually focus on original research in a specific subject field or discipline

Intended Audience

Appeal to broad, general readership

Specialized readership; specialists; scholars and professionals in subject field


Magazine staff or freelance writers

Experts, scholars, professionals in subject field

Layout & Style


Usually shorter articles written on glossy pages with advertising

Longer articles, often including tables, graphs, charts


Non-technical language

Technical, specialized terminology


Generally not cited

Documented research with footnotes and bibliographies

Review Policy

Reviewed by editor

Reviewed by a panel of peers; they are often called peer-reviewed or refereed articles


Published commercially

Published by an association, academic institution, or professional organization




Psychology Today

Child Development

American Journal of Nursing

Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology

popular and scholarly periodicals