Education Psychology Library
Ed/Psych Library
UC Berkeley
2600 Tolman Hall #6000
Berkeley, CA 94720

Circulation: 510-642-4209

Reference: 510-642-2475

photographs: exterior views of Tolman Hall

Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly and Popular Journals

Scholarly Journals
Peer-reviewed Journals
Popular Magazines
How to Find Peer-reviewed or Popular Articles


Professors often require term papers to reflect research in peer-reviewed articles. Peer-reviewed and scholarly journals differ from popular magazines with respect to audience, purpose, and style. If you have questions about whether a source is peer-reviewed or not, check with your instructor or a librarian.

Why is it important to distinguish between peer-reviewed and popular articles? Research gains credibility and respect when it cites other scholarly literature. Academic research achieves authority when it reveals an authorís thorough evaluation of related academic literature. Successful scholars demonstrate both knowledge of a field and their own original thinking. Knowledge in a discipline grows when researchers build on one anotherís work. Scholars trust peer-reviewed work more than the popular press.

Popular magazines offer editorial opinions, general discussion, current topics, graphics, photography, media, and advertisements. Popular articles may tell a first-hand account or present original reporting; however, they may also reflect the editorial bias of the magazine. Insufficient background research may also make articles less reliable.

Scholarly journals

Scholarly, or academic, journals may be peer-reviewed or not. Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. Several attributes characterize academic articles.

  • Authors are scholars, professors, or professionals in the field.
  • Original research forms the basis of an article.
  • Articles address an audience of scholars, experts and researchers.
  • Most journals submit articles to referees, or peer scholars, before publication.
  • Referees are not employees of the publishing journal.
  • Articles cite their sources and include footnotes and/or a bibliography.
  • Few or no advertisements appear in the journal.
  • Graphics are minimal.
  • Publishers issue journals less frequently, such as bi-annually, quarterly or monthly.
  • Specialized research databases, such as PsycInfo, Pubmed, or ERIC, index and abstract articles.
  • Articles rarely appear freely via the Internet.

Peer-reviewed journals

Peer-reviewed journals have all the attributes of scholarly journals. In addition, they undergo rigorous evaluation. Journals select referees based on their knowledge and prestige in a discipline. More than one referee assesses each article. Journal editors choose articles to publish based on refereesí assessments.

Examples include:

Adult Education Quarterly
American Behavioral Scientist
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
American Journal of Family Therapy
Biological Psychology

Popular Magazines

Popular magazines address a general, non-scholarly, though sometimes specialized audience. They include news, topic-specific, and trade magazines. Authors may be journalists, free-lance writers, or scholars.

  • Content covers general interest or newsworthy topics.
  • Articles address the general public or an interested group
  • Magazines rarely cite sources or provide bibliographies.
  • Editors select articles for publication.
  • Magazines contain advertisements and graphics.
  • Advertisements may or may not relate to a magazine’s content.
  • Magazines appear more frequently, such as weekly or monthly.
  • General databases, such as Academic Search Complete, Lexis-Nexis, Infotrac, or ProQuest News, index popular articles and news.

Examples include:

Popular Science
Psychology Today

How to find peer-reviewed or popular articles.

Use specialized databases to find peer-reviewed and popular articles.   For access to peer-reviewed articles in Education and Psychology, use PsycInfo, Pubmed, ERIC, and Education Source.   For articles in Social Welfare, use Sociological Abstracts, Social Service Abstracts, and Social Welfare Abstracts.  For access to popular articles, use Academic Search Complete, Lexis-Nexis, and Project Muse.

For a list of top cited scholarly journals in Education, Psychology or Social Research, check ISI's Journal Citation Reports.

UC Berkeley Library Social Welfare Library