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Evaluation of Sources - A How to Guide: Magazine

What is a magazine?

A magazine is a regularly published collection of articles that might focus on any topic in general or on topics of interest to a specific group, such as sports fans or music fans or home decorators. Magazines might be published weekly, monthly, semi‐monthly, or only several times a year. More commonly, magazines are published weekly or monthly. Examples of magazines include Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Interview, Good Housekeeping, Elle, GQ, and Sports Illustrated.

When to Use Magazine Articles

While most academic research is better done using articles from scholarly/academic journals, magazine articles can also be of use in a variety of situations. For example, a research paper that aims to compare and contrast conservative and liberal viewpoints on immigration reform in the United States would most likely rely heavily on articles published in magazines that reach a broad audience rather than just an academic audience. There are numerous publications that cater to particular political leanings, both conservative and liberal, and having little or no political bent. For example, the magazine National Review covers a multitude of topics of current interest and addresses them from a conservative perspective; the magazine American Prospect covers topics of current interest from a liberal perspective; while the magazine Christian Science Monitor generally takes an unbiased approach in its articles. The researcher looking to contrast the conservative and liberal stances on immigration reform would want to compare articles and editorials published in the National Review and American Prospect and similar magazines in order to get a feel for the differences in opinions surrounding this issue.

Magazines are also excellent sources for locating reviews of books, movies, drama, concerts, music, etc. While scholarly journals also publish book reviews for academic publications, magazines like Publishers Weekly and Booklist are more likely to provide broad coverage of publications in a variety of genres ranging from the very scholarly and academic to the popular. Journals like The Musical Quarterly will provide in‐depth analysis of keyboard techniques in Beethoven sonatas, but magazines like Billboard and Rolling Stone will provide up‐to‐date reviews of the latest album release by the British group Coldplay.

A political science scholar who is researching the impact of the popular press on voting behavior in the last presidential election will need to include newspapers and magazines as source materials for the research. Scholarly analysis of voting will certainly play a big role in the research, but, in order to analyze the popular material that the average voter might have been exposed to, the researcher will need to survey articles that were published in magazines like Time, Newsweek, and the National Review and in newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

General Characteristics

  • about more popular subjects
  • more informal in style and language
  • for the general public
  • written by journalists and staff writers
  • include advertisements as a source of revenue
  • in full color on glossy or semi-glossy paper
  • articles are shorter – usually under 3 pages

-- and they don't usually include a bibliography.

Examples of Popular Magazines

popular magazines image

Difference between popular, trade and scholarly magazines/journals

criteria for popular magazine, trade journal, and scholarly journal. content criteria for a popular magazine is as follows, secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion; general information, purpose is to entertain or inform. content criteria for a trade journal is as follows, current news, trends and products in a specific industry; practicle information for professionals working in the field or indusry. content criteria for a scholarly journal is as follows, in-depth, primary account of original findings written by the researcher; very specific information, with the goal of scholarly communication. Author criteria for a popular magazine is as follows, author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles, may or may not have subject expertise. author criteria for a trade journal is as follows, author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise. author criteria for a scholarly journal is as follows, author's credentials are provided; usually a scholar or specialist with subject expertise. Audience criteria for a popular magazine is as follows, general public; the interested non-specialist. audience criteria for a trade journal is as follows, professionals in the field; the interested non-specialist. audience criteria for a scholarly journal are as follows, scholars, researchers, and students. language criteria for a popular magazine are as follows, vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers. language criteria for a trade journal is as follows specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal. language criteria for a scholarly journal are as follows, specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area. graphics criteria for a popular magazine are as follows, graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs. graphic criteria for a trade journal are as follows, photographs, some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field. graphic criteria for a scholarly journals are as follows graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs. layout and organization criteria for a popular magazine is as follows, informal; may include non-standard formatting. may not present supporting evidence or a conclusion. layout and organization criteria for a trade journal are as follows, informal; articles organized like a journal or a newsletter. evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge. layout and organization criteria for a scholarly journal are as follows, structured; includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence). discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. accountability criteria for a popular magazine are as follows, articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style. accountability criteria for a trade journal is as follows, articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed; edited for format and style. accountability criteria for a scholarly journal are as follows, articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers of referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style. reference criteria for a popular magazine are as follows, rare, little, if any, information about source materials is given. reference criteria for a trade journal are as follows, occasional, brief bibliographies, but not required. reference criteria for a scholarly journal are as follows, required. quotes and facts are verifiable. paging criteria for a popular magazine is as follows, each issue begins with page 1. paging criteria for a trade journal is as follows, each issue generally begins with page 1. paging criteria for a scholarly journal is as follows, page numbers are generally consecutive throughout the volume.

Gale Power Search

Below is an example of how to evaluate a magazine to determine if it is appropriate to use in a research assignment.  From the results list or from the actual article, click on the name of the magazine.  A new window opens to show important information about the publication--availability, format, audience, subjects, content, and publisher contact information.  Online magazine article example: Step 1 click on the name of the magazine. Step 2 the type of magazine can be found under the audience, in this example the magazine is a trade magazine. Step 3 listed under gale subject headings you will find a list of all subject headings for this particular article.