Finding Journal Articles

Please see the Overview or A-Z Database list pages to find suggestions for places to search for scholarly articles.

What is an Article? What is Peer Review?

Are you confused about what an article is? Or what the difference is between a scholarly article and one from a newspaper or magazine?

A journal can be similar to a magazine, but journals are published by universities or professional organizations. Magazines are published by corporations. Articles that are published in academic journals are written by experts in a specific field, and in many journals, submitted to a panel of experts who examine the article to see if it holds up to the high standards of academic publishing. This is called peer review. Most academic journals are narrow in focus and are written for a specific audience, unlike magazines which normally have a broader focus and are published to be read by as many people as possible. Most academic articles will have a bibliography at the end. See "Journals vs. Magazines" below for more details.

Many of our databases contain a mix of popular and scholarly articles. Fortunately, most of those databases provide an option of limiting your search results to scholarly and peer-reviewed items, either before or after you search, or both. Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Journals vs. Magazines




Nature of Content

Scholarly; often (but not always) peer-reviewed / refereed.

Popular, i.e., written for the general public. Magazines range from very sophisticated to very basic.


Detailed reports of original research or experiment.

Secondary reports or discussions; may include personal narrative, opinion, anecdotes.


Usually scholar(s) with subject expertise identified, and credentials are given

Often a professional writer who may or may not be identified, and may or may not have subject expertise.


Scholars, researchers, and students.

General public; the interested non-specialist.


Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; often requires prior knowledge.

Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers; average reading level: 8th grade

Layout & Organization

Formal organization; articles often begins with an abstract, i.e. summary. If reporting experimental findings, notes the experiment’s purpose, method, results, analysis of the results, and conclusion. Bibliography listed at the end of the article. May include charts or graphs, but rarely photographs.

Informal organization: eye-catching type and formatting, usually includes illustrations or photographs. May not intend to present an idea with supporting evidence or come to a conclusion.

Bibliography & References

All quotes and facts can be verified with citations.

Rare. Scanty, if any, information about sources.


  • Developmental Psychology
  • Journal of the American Medical Association

The words “journal” or “review” often appear in the title.

  • Time
  • Newsweek
  • People
  • Harper's
  • Rolling Stone

Almost anything available in a store or newsstand.

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Your Librarian

Paul Streby

316 Thompson Library

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