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Academic or Non-Academic Resource?

This guide will help you tell the difference between a popular magazine and an academic, or scholarly, journal.

What Is a Scholarly or Academic Journal?

A journal can be considered scholarly or academic (though not necessarily peer-reviewed) if it conforms to the standards of scholarly publishing. Though not all scholarly articles/journals have all of these earmarks, these are some indicators to look for:

  • on the journal website, it clearly states that it is an academic or scholarly publication
  • the article has footnotes/endnotes and an extensive bibliography
  • the article does not have many illustrations, other than images, charts and graphs which illustrate its findings
  • the article has multiple authors
  • the author(s) has an advanced degree (e.g., PhD) and/or the credentials of each author is listed as well as their institutional affiliation
  • the article title is lengthy, uses technical terms and describes what the article contains
  • the journal title is lengthy and starts with "The Journal of...," "The International...," or contains the words "Quarterly" or "Annual"
  • the journal publisher is a university or scholarly professional organization
  • the sources listed in the bibliography are scholarly (see above)
  • the article begins with an abstract which describes exactly what the reader will find in the text
  • the article says that it is primary research
  • the language of the article is academic and assumes the reader has knowledge in the area of coverage
  • the database lists the journal as "academic" or "scholarly"
  • the article or journal is indexed in a database that only includes scholarly and/or peer-reviewed titles

When in doubt, ask a librarian for assistance in determining whether or not a journal is scholarly or not.

Remember to read your assignment instructions carefully to determine what kinds of sources are acceptable and ask your instructor for clarification if you have any questions.

What Is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

A peer-reviewed journal is a periodical where the quality of the articles is maintained through a review process conducted by experts prior to publication. Articles submitted to a refereed or peer-reviewed journal are examined by one or more people with expertise in the field with which the article deals. This process gives the scholarly community some assurance that the information in the article is valid and credible. Some disciplines require peer-reviewed status more than others.

Other types of periodicals include newspapers, popular magazines, and trade publications.

How can I tell if a journal is peer-reviewed?

Within the database, the information about the journal, whether a "Source Type" field or a description of the journal, will specifically mention that the publication is peer-reviewed. You can also do a Google search for the journal's official website, which should include information about the peer-review process, if one exists.

Example Titles

Comparison Charts

For more information on this topic, take a look at these informative charts which describe the differences between types of publications.