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ANTH 3220 : The Archaeology of New Orleans and the Urban U.S.: Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

Research Guide for ANTH 3220 : The Archaeology of New Orleans and the Urban U.S.

Journals vs. Magazines

Journals vs. Magazines

Scholarly vs. Popular Materials Guide

When conducting research it is important to distinguish between journal articles and magazine articles. Journal articles are typically referred to as "scholarly," while magazine articles are usually considered "popular". A third category, "trade" magazines or journals, are written for professionals in a particular field but are not strictly research related. Below are additional criteria to consider when differentiating between journals and magazines.

Criteria Scholarly Journal Popular Magazine Trade Magazine/Journal
Content (Accuracy) In-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher(s); very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication. Secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform. Current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry.
Author (Authority) Author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise. Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise. Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.
Audience (Coverage) Scholars, researchers, and students. General public; the interested non-specialist. Professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist.
Language (Coverage) Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area. Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers. Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal.
Graphics (Coverage) Graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs. Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs. Photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.
Layout & Organization (Currency) Structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion. Informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge.
Accountability (Objectivity) Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers* or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed*; edited for format and style.
References (Objectivity) Required. Quotes and facts are verifiable. Rare. Little, if any, information about source materials is given. Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.
Paging Page numbers are consecutive throughout the volume. Each issue begins with page 1. Each issue begins with page 1.
Other Examples
Scholarly Journal
Annals of Mathematics, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, History of Education Quarterly, Almost anything with Journal in the title.
Popular Magazine
Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, Cooking Light, Discover
Trade Magazine/Journal
Architectural Record, PC World, Restaurant Business, American Libraries, Psychology Today, School Band and Orchestra

* For more information about the peer-review process, view this video: Peer Review in Five Minutes.

Grateful Acknowledgement: This is a modified version of a document originally created by librarians at the University of Michigan Shapiro Undergraduate Library.

Scholarly vs. Popular Materials: Research Guide: NCSU Libraries. (n.d.). NCSU Libraries. Retrieved October 3, 2013, from

Evaluating Books

Scholarly Books vs. Popular Nonfiction

Scholarly Books Popular Nonfiction
  • Discuss and reflect on original research
  • Should provide historical context and examination of original documents and/or artifacts
  • Advance research in the discipline
Common popular nonfiction might:
  • Provide an in depth examination of current events
  • Argue personal political opinions
  • Profile individuals
  • Discuss personal or professional experiences
Cited Sources
  • Refers to original sources of information through extensive footnotes and/or bibliography
  • Refers to original data or primary source material
  • Uses few or no citations
  • Relies on interviews, and sources are discussed in the text of the book rather than footnotes (i.e., these are not oral histories: "one source close to so and so reported...")
Author's Authority
  • Each author is a scholar or researcher in the field (i.e, is an historian)
  • May be one author for the whole book or each chapter may be written by a different scholar
  • Author may be a reporter, pundit, or professional
  • Does not have specific research training to be considered an expert in the discipline
  • Uses the terminology of the discipline to discuss research
  • Targeted to an audience of scholars
  • Uses common, everyday language
  • Targeted to the general public
  • Published by university presses (i.e., Oxford, Kansas, Cambridge, and so on)
  • Published by scholarly commercial publishers (i.e., Hill and Wang, Norton)
  • Published by popular publishers (i.e., HarperCollins, Viking)

Taken from What is a Scholarly Book? - History 426: Workers Across America (Spring 2011) - LibGuides at Washington State University Vancouver Library. (n.d.). Home - LibGuides at Washington State University Vancouver Library . Retrieved October 3, 2013, from

Evaluating Sources

The CRAP Test

Evaluate Sources Based on the Following Criteria:

Currency, Reliability, Authority and Purpose/Point of View



·         How recent is the information?

·         How recently has the website been updated?

·         Is it current enough for your topic?


·         What kind of information is included in the resource?

·         Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is it balanced?

·         Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?


·         Who is the creator or author?

·         What are the credentials?

·         Who is the publisher or sponsor?

·         Are they reputable?

·         What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?

·         Are there advertisements on the website?

Purpose/Point of View

·         Is this fact or opinion?

·         Is it biased?

·         Is the creator/author trying to sell you something?