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Media Studies Library Guide: Peer-Reviewed/Scholarly Journals

A guide to resources for Media Studies


You've been told by your lecturer that you need to use scholarly journals or peer reviewed articles for your essays.  But what does he mean?  What are scholarly journals and how do you find them?

Magazines, journals, scholarly journals, serials, periodicals ....  so what is in a name?  Is there a difference?  Whatever they are called, they are publications that are published on a regular basis.

A basic rule of thumb would be that magazines are intended for the general public and scholarly journals are written by and for the academic community.  Scholarly journals are also called academic journals or refereed journals or peer reviewed journals.

Why are journals very useful sources of information?


  •   the most recent research in a field is published in a journal
  •   they provide information on specialised subjects
  •   you can use the list of references in the journal articles to help you find more sources

What's the difference between popular magazines and scholarly resources?

Popular magazines

  • employ writers who do nothing but write articles for magazines.
  • their writers don't usually get much time to research their articles.
  • these writers often do not have degrees in the fields they research.
  • What are the goals of popular magazines?  To inform or entertain the general public and to make money for the publisher.
  • Examples of popular magazines would be "You",  "Fair Lady",  "Popular Mechanics", "Sports Illustrated"

Scholarly Journals

  • they solicit articles from experts who are academics or highly qualified specialists or professionals,  or have articles submitted to them by academics.
  • these writers may spend years researching and writing just one article.
  • What are the goals of scholarly journals?  To provide a place to transmit specialized information to the academic community and to make money for the publisher.
  • Examples of academic journals would be "South African Journal of Cultural History", "Journal of Social Scienc", "Film Quarterly".


If you are searching for articles on the databases, there is often an option to limit the search to "Peer reviewed",  "Scholarly articles" or "Academic journals"