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Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals: A Checklist of Criteria

This guide will help you determine if a periodical source is scholarly or non-scholarly.


Journals, magazines, and newspapers are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines.

With a collection as large and diverse as UMO's it is often difficult to distinguish between the various levels of scholarship found in the collection.

In this guide we have divided the criteria for evaluating periodical literature into four categories:

  • Scholarly
  • News and General Interest 
  • Popular
  • Sensational and Tabloid

Click on the green tabs to the left to learn about each type of periodical.



Scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles are written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields. In the sciences and social sciences, they often publish research results.

Substantive news articles are reliable sources of information on events and issues of public concern.

Popular articles reflect the tastes of the general public and are often meant as entertainment.

Sensational and tabloid articles intend to arouse strong curiosity, interest, or reaction. They do not follow the standards of journalistic ethics. They are not factually accurate.

Keeping these definitions in mind, and realizing that none of the lines drawn between types of journals can ever be totally clear cut, lists of more specific descriptive criteria follow on the next pages.

Interactive Information Literacy Tutorial

Permissions Information

The content in this guide is reused in accordance with the Creative Commons license under which the original guide is published. The license agreement may be found at the following link: Attribution for the creation of this guide is as follows: Research & Learning Services  Olin Library Cornell University Library Ithaca, NY, USA 

The following changes have been made to this guide and are noted in accordance with the license agreement above: 1) Links to library resources have been adapted to reflect the holdings at Moye Library. 2) Staff information has been adapted for Moye Library. 

If you would like to reuse this guide, please see Cornell's original guide and corresponding criteria for reproducing or adapting their LibGuides. 

Moye Library, University of Mount Olive, 2017