Popular, Scholarly: How Does Peer Review Fit In?

William Schwenck Gilbert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Popular Magazines

General interest or popular magazines do not undergo peer review. They usually have an attractive format with photos and illustrations.Articles in popular magazines rarely have a reference page. They are frequently written for a general audience by a staff or freelance writer. The language is simple and easy to understand. The purpose of these publications is to provide general information, to entertain, and sometimes to sell products. They are published by commercial enterprises for profit. Use popular magazines if you only require general information about a topic. Do not expect to find substantial detail or in-depth analysis.

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journals are often referred to as peer reviewed or refereed journals. They contain articles that have undergone a review process by selected experts in the field before being accepted for publication. Think of this as similar to being judged by a jury of their peers. They have a serious format and usually have charts and graphs to illustrate concepts. All of the sources are cited with footnotes and/or a bibliography. Scholars or researchers in a specific discipline or field write the articles. The material uses the terminology and language of the discipline, and the reader is expected to have a similar background. The purpose of these journals is to report or make research available to the scholarly world. Many of these journals are published by a professional organization. Use scholarly journals if you need verifiable and highly credible information. Scholarly journals often feature primary research with detailed analysis.

Examples of Different Types of Periodicals:

General or Popular Magazines Scholarly Journals
Newsweek New England Journal of Medicine
Time American Journal of Sociology
Fortune Shakespeare Quarterly
Psychology Today Journal of Counseling Psychology
The New Yorker Intervirology
Atlantic Monthly Academy of Management Review


Publication Process for Peer Reviewed Journals

This is a simplified diagram of how articles are reviewed for publication in a scholarly periodical. The publication process may not always follow the steps below.

peer review1

1 Author writes article and submits it to a journal.
2. Editor of journal forwards the article to a panel of experts for further review. Panel may accept the article for publication, suggest revisions, or reject it.
3. Author makes suggested revisions, and article is published.
This process can take from 30 days to well over a year.

Just remember, when you need quality information, peer review is a great place to start.