Professional Journals and Popular Magazines

What's the difference? | How to find an article from a professional journal

What's the difference?

Professional Journals:

Popular magazines:

. Are also called scholarly journals, academic journals, or peer-reviewed publications. . Are also called general interest magazines.

. They are written for and by professionals in the particular field.

. They are written for the general public.
. They have bibliographies of sources consulted at the end of articles.

. They do not cite their sources, usually.

. They use language or jargon that is specific to the field. . They use language that is understood by the general public.
. They give the author's name and usually the credentials of the author.

. Sometimes they don't give an author's name. The articles are written by a staff person on the magazine. Even if they give the author's name, they sometimes give no indication of who that person is or what credentials he/she has for writing the article.

. They usually have no illustrations or photos. . They often have illustrations and photos.
. You usually can't buy a professional journal at a store. . Popular magazines can be bought at drugstores, grocery stores, or bookstores.

. Examples of professional journals are:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Art Bulletin
  • Cell
  • Journal of Marriage & Family
  • Journal of Sport Behavior
  • Feminist Review
  • Comparative Economic Studies

. Examples of popular magazines are:

  • Consumer Reports on Health
  • U.S. News and World Report
  • Smithsonian
  • Psychology Today
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Cosmopolitan
  • The Economist


How to find an article from a professional journal

The easiest way to find an article from a professional journal at Gavilan is to use one of our online periodical indexes: EbscoHost. This index offers the option to search for scholarly journals only. I'll take you through the steps of finding a professional journal in EbscoHost, pointing out some advanced searching techniques along the way.

Remember, if you are trying to access databases from off-campus, you'll need your library card number.

From the Library home page, at, click on the link to EbscoHost.

If you are off campus the password is the first 5 digits of your library card number.

EbscoHost logo

Once you are in EbscoHost select Advanced Search.

Screenshot of EbscoHost advanced search

As you will notice, Advanced Search allows you many options. You can carefully craft a Boolean search by using more than one blank, or you can search only in specific parts of the article, like only in the title, or only in the abstract (the summary).

Next we want to focus our search on databases that will have the scholarly articles for which we are searching. To do this we want to click on the Choose Databases link.

image of choose databases link

Now we have a list of 20+ databases included in EbscoHost. Each database does something different. To get information about a particular database, place your cursor over the bubble icon next to the database name.

screenshot of choose databases screen with description of the history reference center database

We always begin with 3 basic databases (Academic Search Premier, Masterfile Premier and Newspaper Source Plus.)

We will want to deselect the Newspaper Source Plus database because, as we discovered above, a newspaper does not meet the criteria of a scholarly journal.

We can then select additional databases that may cover our subject specifically. ie: History Reference Center for history projects or Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection for Psychology projects.

When we have deselected Newspaper Source Plus and added any additional databases, click on the OK button.

Now, we can continue with entering our search terms in the advanced search screen.

When you search only in parts of the record, it is called field searching. To do this, click on the small arrow next to the place where it says "Select a field (optional) " and select the field you would like to search. If you want to include all fields, leave it on select a field.

Screenshot EbscoHost advanced search options

If you scroll down on the page, you will find more options:

You can limit your search to only those articles which are available in full text (meaning the whole article is there, instead of just a summary).

When we say that a journal is scholarly, it means that before any article is published in that journal, the editors send the article to other experts. If the experts say that the facts in the article are true, then the editors publish the article in the journal. If the experts say that the article still needs work, the editors send it back to the author for revision.


You can limit your search by date. To limit your search to professional journals check the "Scholarly Journals" box.

If you forget to apply the limits before you submit your searches you can always apply them after you receive the results.


screenshot of limit results by options from a results screen

Often, when you look through an article from a scholarly journal, you'll notice that the language is difficult to understand. There might be big charts of numbers and statistics, or words you don't know. Remember, the articles are written by experts for other experts in that subject. They are often reporting on something that no one has ever noticed or studied before. They have to prove everything they say, or tell where they read it or heard about it. Many of the great discoveries and projects of the modern age, such as Einstein's theory of relativity, or the decoding of Mayan hieroglyphics, were first reported in scholarly journals.

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Page last updated June 17, 2009 .
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