An article in an academic journal may outwardly resemble a magazine article, but even the surface differences are numerous, important, and actually quite easy to spot. This table shows you some of the outward differences, but by far the most important difference is the fact that articles published in academic journals are peer-reviewed (checked and approved by knowledgeable scholars) while magazines articles are not.
|Purpose:||to distribute highly specific knowledge to experts and students; contributors are publishing in order to establish or improve their professional reputation||to make money by supplying a platform to advertisers who want to reach a particular audience; from a certain blunt perspective, the articles only exist in order to trick you into looking at the advertisements|
|Frequency||annual, semi-annual, or quarterly||monthly, weekly or even daily|
|Medium:||online and/or print||online and/or print|
|Citations:||each article concludes with a “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” list; article includes (in footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical notes) full publication data on all outside sources — including the page numbers for direct quotes or paraphrases.||possibly a “suggested reading” list, but no formal bibliography, and no footnotes; the article may refer to “a recent government study” or may give the title of a book, but it won’t specify the page number where a specific quote or fact can be found in those outside sources|
|Ads:||if any, they are directed towards specialists (job openings for researchers, upcoming conferences, forthcoming books)||colorful and splashy ads for everything from cars to cigarettes to the latest movies|
|Authors:||mostly university professors
(paid by their universities to write about their own original achievements in the lab, library, or classroom) or advanced graduate students aspiring to be professors
(paid by the magazine, to write about what somebody else is doing — not about their own original achievements in the lab, library, or classroom)
|Audience:||experts and students||the general public (or some subset, such as Mac users, or nurses, or teachers, or sports fans)|
|Articles:||titles are long and boring: “A Psychological Case Study of Climate-related Fears among College-educated Workers in the Midwest”; each takes up about ten pages of dense prose; long sentences full of semicolons; long paragraphs||titles are short and snappy: “Tornadoes: Freakish Killers” or “Could You Survive a Tornado?”; sometimes only one or two sentences to a paragraph; much easier to read than most academic articles|
|Contents:||Generally pretty dry, except to those who’ve devoted 10 years to the study of this subject.
academic articles, book reviews, and letters to the editor are the largest sections; you may find an occasional interview with an important figure, but there are no “man on the street” interviews; no “helpful tips,” no sit-down chats with celebrities, previews of upcoming TV series, or capsule reviews of current movies
|Designed to appeal to the average person.
May include humor, fiction, product reviews, a sports section, movie reviews, celebrity interviews, book reviews, current events, international news, etc.
Dennis G. Jerz
28 Dec 1999 — First posted.
21 Aug 2001 — Last modified.
04 Apr 2011 — Minor edits.