Popular Magazines and Scholarly Journals: What's the Difference?

If you have a copy of the print version of a periodical, examine its "look." How it looks can tell you a lot about its purpose and audience.

 
Popular Magazine
Scholarly Journal
Examples


Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today


JAMA, Harvard Business Review, Journal of Abnormal Psychology
What is its purpose?
To entertain, to inform, to sell magazines (i.e., to make money!). To report on original research or experimentation.
Who are the articles' authors?
Staff or freelance journalists; sometimes a well-known person not necessarily expert in the field.
A scholar or researcher.
Who is the audience?
General audience; not necessarily well-educated.
Other scholars and researchers in the discipline.
What kind of language is used?
Language is simple, easy to read. Articles are short and lack depth.
Language can be difficult to read, and filled with jargon and technical terms. Articles tend to be long.
Who is the publisher?
Usually a commercial publishing house, like TimeWarner.
Usually a professional organization (like the American Psychological Association) or a university.
Do articles contain a bibliography/ works cited page?
Rarely. Usually authors will cite sources informally within the article text.
Almost always has footnotes and/or a bibliography/works cited page.
Does it contain photographs & other graphics?
Usually attractive, glossy. Lots of graphics, lots of ads for consumer goods like cars and electronic equipment. Serious-looking, "boring." Usually contains tables/charts, but few pictures. If there are ads, they are usually for academic conferences, books or other journals.