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VVC Library: What is a Scholarly Journal?

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What is a Scholarly Journal?

A scholarly journal (also referred to as academic journals, scientific journals, or peer reviewed journals) is a periodical that contains articles written by experts in a particular field of study. The articles are intended to be read by other experts or students of the field, and they are usually much more sophisticated and advanced than the articles found in general magazines. Many instructors assign research papers or projects that require students to read articles published in scholarly journals. This guide offers some tips to help distinguish scholarly journals from other periodicals.

Characteristics of a Scholarly Journal

To communicate the results of recent research in the field of study covered by the journal. Scholarly articles reflect a systematic and thorough study of a single topic, often involving experiments or surveys. Scholarly journals may also occasionally publish review articles that summarize the current state of knowledge on a topic.

Scholarly journals lack the slick advertising, want ads, coupons, etc. found in popular magazines. The articles inside are often printed one column to a page, as in books, and there are often graphs, tables, or charts referring to specific points in the article. Articles are always signed.

Scholarly articles are written by the person(s) who did the research being reported. When more than two authors are listed for a single article, the first author listed is usually the primary researcher who supervised or coordinated the work done by the other authors. The most highly-regarded scholarly journals are usually those sponsored by professional associations; for example, the American Psychological Association and the American Chemical Society.

Validity and Reliability
Articles submitted to scholarly journals are evaluated by an editorial board and other experts before they are accepted for publication. This evaluation, often called "peer reviewed," is designed to insure that the articles published are based on solid research that meets the normal standards of the field of study covered by the journal.

Writing Style
Articles in scholarly journals usually in-depth and contain an advanced vocabulary, since the authors use the technical language or jargon of their field of study. Articles are not written for the general public in that the authors assume the reader already possesses a basic understanding of the field of study.

The authors of scholarly articles always list the sources of their information. These references are usually listed at the end of an article, but they may appear in the form of footnotes, endnotes or a bibliography.

Periodicals That Are Not Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines
These are periodicals that one typically finds at grocery stores, airport newsstands, or bookstores in a shopping mall. Magazines are designed to appeal to a broad segment of the population, and contain relatively brief articles written in a readable, non-technical language. Articles written for a wide audience and are useful when looking for information on current events, special topics and general interests. Examples include: Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Essence, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, and Vogue.

News Magazines
These periodicals, which are usually issued weekly, can be useful for information on trending topics or current events, but their articles seldom have the depth or authority of scholarly articles. Examples include: Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Report.

Professional Publications
These periodicals cover a specific profession or field of interest and report on developments, trends and news in a profession, trade, or industry. Examples include: Library Journal, Automotive News, Psychology Today, and Nursing.