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Home >> Research & Instruction >> Research Help >> Peer-Reviewed Articles

What is a scholarly journal | Comparing journals & magazines | Finding peer-reviewed journals

What is a scholarly journal?

Your instructor has asked you to find an article in a scholarly (or professional or refereed or peer-reviewed) journal. Scholarly journals differ from popular magazines and trade journals/magazines in a number of ways. (See "Comparison Chart" below.) A primary difference between scholarly journals and other types of journals and magazines is that articles in these journals undergo a "peer review" process before they are published. What does this mean?

  • Peer review is the process by which an author's peers, recognized researchers in the field, read and evaluate a paper (article) submitted for publication and recommend whether the paper should be published, revised, or rejected.
  • Peer review is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.
  • Peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process.

The following characteristics can help you distinguish between these and two other types of periodicals: popular magazines and trade publications. If in doubt, ask your teacher or a librarian for assistance.

Comparing Characteristics of Journals/Magazines



AUTHOR Expert (scholar, professor, researcher, etc.) in field covered. Author is always named. Journalist; nonprofessional or layperson. Sometimes author is not named. Business or industry representative. Sometimes author is not named.
NOTES Usually includes notes and/or bibliographic references. Few or no notes or bibliographic references. Few or no notes or bibliographic references.
CONTENTS News and research (methodology, theory) from the field. Current events; general interest. Business or industry information (trends, products, techniques).
STYLE Written for experts using technical language. Journalistic; written for nonprofessional or layperson. Written for people in the business or industry using technical language.
AUDIENCE Scholars or researchers in the field. General public. People in the business or industry.
REVIEW Usually reviewed by peer scholars (referees) not employed by the journal. Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine. Reviewed by one or more editors employed by the magazine.
APPEARANCE Plain; mostly print, sometimes with black and white figures, tables, graphs and/or charts. Glossy, with many pictures in color. Glossy, with many pictures in color.
ADS Few or none; if any, usually for books or other professional materials. Many, often in color. Some, often in color.
FREQUENCY Usually monthly or quarterly. Usually weekly or monthly. Usually weekly or monthly.
EXAMPLES Developmental Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association). Rolling Stone (commercially published).

Monitor on Psychology (published by the American Psychological Association


Finding articles in scholarly/peer-reviewed journals

Many of the Library's article databases allow you to limit the search results to peer-reviewed or scholarly articles by:

  • do an Articles (Quick Search) in the search bar at the top of this page. Look for articles tagged as peer-reviewed.
  • checking the box "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" under limit or refine search.
  • clicking on the tab "Scholarly Journals" or "Academic Journals" while viewing results of a search.

Keep in mind, even though a particular journal is peer reviewed, an individual item in that journal may not be. Some article types, e.g. news items, comments, editorials, may not have gone through the peer review process. Scholarly articles are generally several pages long.

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