Distinguishing Scholarly Journals and Popular Magazines Lesson Plan
(Corresponds to pages 743-744 of Chapter 23 in The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing)
At the college level, when you are asked to write a research paper your instructors
will more than likely want you to use scholarly journals to support your thesis. In
this lesson, we’re going to compare popular magazines to scholarly journals. By
the end of this lesson, you’ll be able to identify the key differences between the
To illustrate the difference between a popular magazine and a scholarly journal, I’d
like you to think about taking a visit to your medical doctor. As you sit in the
waiting room, you look over and decide to peruse a copy of the latest Time
Magazine or perhaps National Geographic catches your eye. There are captivating
glossy pictures that make you want to read the article on the great animal
migrations. In the back office, your physician is reading up on the latest H1N1
virus and is skimming through a copy of The Journal of the American Medical
Association (or JAMA) for the latest epidemiological studies on how this virus
mutates. Your doctor is reading an article written by three prominent researchers
who have isolated the virus and traced its origins. She’s particularly interested in
their list of references at the end of the article and plans to obtain copies of these
articles to trace the original research.
Who is reading a popular magazine? You or your doctor?
Who is reading a scholarly journal? You or your doctor?
II. Handout: Popular Articles (Magazines) and Scholarly Articles (Journals)
Review the differences, stressing that journals publish articles written by experts in
a particular field of study and often contain original research. Magazines, in
contrast, usually publish articles written to entertain and educate the general public.
III. Let’s take an up-close look at some differences between these two types of
Show students powerpoint “EvalResourcesPowerpoint”
Be sure to stress the difference between “scholarly” articles and “peer reviewed”
(Peer-reviewed materials go through a very rigorous process in order to get
published. Note that an article could be scholarly, but not peer reviewed.
IV. Give students five articles and have them work in pairs to evaluate whether the
articles are popular or scholarly or peer-reviewed. To help students in this task,
give them the handout “Yeah, but is it scholarly?”