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Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed vs. Popular?

You need a scholarly or a peer-reviewed article. What does that mean? How do you tell what you've got? This guide will help.

What are some scholarly or peer-reviewed articles?

  • Many databases indicate whether the article is "academic" or  "peer-reviewed" in the full citation. 
  • Also, you can limit your search results  to "academic journals" or "peer-reviewed" BEFORE or AFTER you search, so your results will all be scholarly material.
  • If this information is not available, another option is to look up the title of journal in a database called Ulrichsweb, which gives publication information on all types of periodicals.

If in doubt, ask a librarian! We'll be glad to help. 


Example 1: You can limit your search immediately BEFORE you search.

Advanced search screen of Academic Search Premier with Limit Your results option "peer-reviewed" highlighted in a red box.


ABI/Inform search box with peer reviewed option below it highlighted in a red box.



Example 2: You can limit to "Academic Journals" or "Scholarly Journals" (depending on the database you are in) AFTER  you conduct your search, thus filtering your results.

Peer reviewed is highlighted in a red box under the "Limit to" option.


Academic Journals is highlighed in a red box under the "Source Types" category.


What is the difference between popular magazines, trade journals and scholarly (also called academic or peer-reviewed) journals?  Check out the table below.

Different Types of Periodicals

Popular Trade Scholarly
Color covers Plain cover, plain paper (most often)
Glossy papers Glossy papers (Science journals may be glossy)
Ads Ads No ads
Articles on current events Articles on industry trends Primary research, theories, methodologies
General interest Written for members of specific industry Written for researchers & professionals
Short articles Short articles Lengthy, in-depth articles
Informal tone Informal tone Formal and serious tone
Easy to read vocabulary Professional jargon, more difficult to read
Written by general staff Written by staff or experts in the field Written by experts in the field & researchers
Reviewed by general editor Peer review* by subject experts
No bibliographies or footnotes Short or no bibliographies Extensive bibliographies & references
Usually called a "magazine" Referred to as a "journal"; may have "journal" in its name

"Peer reviewed" means that the article has gone through a vetting or review process.  That is, experts in the same field as the author of the article have evaluated the author's scholarship and made sure that his or her methods, research, theories, and conclusions are sound and backed up by other scholarship or research. Often, a double-blind peer-review process is used, where the author and reviewers are unknown to each other, to ensure that personal bias does not affect the evaluation of scholarship.

Journals may be scholarly or academic without necessarily being peer-reviewed.  In this case, a editor in the discipline or an editorial board makes the decision to publish another expert's work. Ask your professor whether or not your article needs to be peer-reviewed in addition to being scholarly.

  • Is this an article from a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Is this a popular or a scholarly source?
  • What type of magazine or journal do I have?

Ulrichsweb can answer your question!

The Rider University Libraries subscribes to a database called Ulrichsweb that gives "detailed information on more than 300,000 periodicals (also called serials) of all types: academic and scholarly journals, e-journals, peer-reviewed titles, popular magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and more."


You can search by journal title, keyword, ISSN number, and subject area.

Ulrichsweb search box. Enter a title, issn, or search term to find journals or other periodicals is above the search box. Advanced search link is below it.


Below is the record for a journal called Marvels & Tales.  This record tells you that Marvels & Tales is an academic or scholarly journal that is peer-reviewed.  The term Ulrichsweb uses is "refereed" (think what a referee in sports does!)

Information screen for a journal called Marvels & Tales. "Refereed: YES" with an icon of a referree's black and white uniform is highlighted in a red box  The explanation "Refereed" means "peer-reviewed" is in big red letters.