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Extended Essay: Finding Journal and Magazine Articles

A guide to the research process involved in your EE.

What's the difference between a periodical, a scholarly journal, and a magazine?

A "periodical" is any publication that comes out regularly or occasionally (i.e. periodically, get it?). TV GuideSports IllustratedThe Journal of Anthropological ResearchThe World Almanac, and the phone book are all periodicals. The are also know as "serials."

A "magazine" is a periodical with a popular focus, i.e. aimed at the general public, and containing news, personal narratives, and opinion. Articles are often written by professional writers with or without expertise in the subject; they contain "secondary" discussion of events, usually with little documentation (e.g. footnotes). Magazines use vocabulary understandable to most people, and often have lots of eye-catching illustrations. TimeNewsweekU.S. News & World Report, and Psychology Today are magazines

A "journal," or "scholarly journal," is a scholarly periodical aimed at specialists and researchers. Articles are generally written by experts in the subject, using more technical language. They contain original research, conclusions based on data, footnotes or endnotes, and often an abstract or bibliography. The Journal of Physical ChemistryThe Chaucer ReviewThe Milbank Quarterly, and Labor History are examples of journals.

It's important to understand the differences between journals and magazines. Magazines are not necessarily bad or low quality (nor are journals necessarily high quality) -- they simply aren't designed to support most upper-level academic research. This is because they don't document their sources of information, and they generally lack the depth of scholarly journals.

The table below highlights the differences. For more information check out our Understanding Journals guide.


  Journals - Scholarly Magazines - Popular
Content Detailed report or original research or experiment. Secondary report or discussion; may include personal narrative, opinion, anecdotes
Author Author’s credentials are given; usually a scholar with subject expertise Author may or may not be named; often a professional writer; may or may not have subject expertise.
Audience Scholars, researchers, and students General public; the interested non-specialist
Refereed/peer-reviewed? [What's this?] Usually No
Language Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires prior knowledge Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers
Layout & Organization Formal organization often begins with an abstract of the article; if reporting experimental findings notes the experiment’s purpose, methodology, and analysis of the results; a conclusion, and a bibliography; may include charts or graphs, but rarely photographs. Informal organization: eye-catching type and formatting, usually includes illustrations or photographs. May not intend to present an idea with supporting evidence or come to a conclusion
Bibliography & References Required. All quotes and facts can be verified. Rare. Scanty, if any, information about sources.
Examples Developmental Psychology
JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association

The words "journal" or "review" often appear in the title


Almost anything available in a store or news stand.

What is a Scholarly Article?

What is a Scholarly Article
Why Is It Important?

This video explains what scholarly articles are, the different sections they contain, and why it's important to use them when doing serious writing and research.

Kimbel Library. “What Is a Scholarly Article?” Vimeo, 31 July 2011,