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LiONiL: Library Instruction Online for Information Literacy

Module 4: Evaluating/Critical Thinking

Identifying scholarly or peer-reviewed journals

Scholarly or peer-reviewed (refereed) journals are publications devoted to a specific field or subfield of knowledge. They contain articles written by researchers or experts in the field. Peer-reviewed or refereed means that either an editorial board consisting of highly-qualified reviewers with similar backgrounds or outside scholars review all articles before publication. The inside cover of a scholarly journal will often tell the reader explicitly whether or not the journal is “peer reviewed” or “refereed."

key information In the table below you will see a list of features to look for when determining if an article is popular or scholarly:

Scholarly journal articles:
Popular magazine articles:
are written by experts in the field. are usually written by journalists.
are reviewed by experts in the field. are reviewed by the editor of the magazine.
include authorship and credentials.
may not include authorship or credentials.
often include an abstract or summary (written by the author) of the article. have no abstract or summary.
include lists of works cited. usually do not include a list of works cited.
are written in specialized language. are written in non-technical language.
are usually lengthy. are relatively short.
rarely contain advertisements. almost always contain advertisements.
Photo of scholarly journals
Photo of popular magazines

For a more detailed explanation of the difference between scholarly journals and popular magazine, watch the You Tube video Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals created by Peabody Library at Vanderbilt University.