Scholarly (sometimes called "peer reviewed") journal articles are excellent resources when seeking current, in-depth discussions of narrow topics; journal articles are typically not as helpful when seeking an overview or recap of a topic.
For example, you’ll find plenty of scholarly journal articles addressing the potential climatic impacts of nuclear war; you would find fewer journal articles addressing the history of nuclear war, however.
Scholarly journal articles differ from magazines/newspapers in that they are written by and for scholars (and not for the general public). See the following table to help your distinguish between scholarly and popular resources:
|Scholarly (Journals)||Popular (Magazines/Newspapers)|
|Written by scholars, academics, and researchers.||Written by journalists, columnists, reporters, bloggers, etc.|
|Written for (and by) those with expertise in the field.||Written for non-experts and the casually interested.|
|Thoroughly referenced, with credible and reputable sources.||Sometimes referenced, but rarely with academic/scholarly sources.|
|Written to advance scholarship and academic knowledge.||Written to entertain, inform, provoke, and make money.|
|Usually reviewed by academics and scholars (“peer-review”).||Usually reviewed by an editor, though freelance work may be un-reviewed.|
|Examples: Annual Review of Psychology, Cinema Journal, American Journal of Education, Nature||Examples: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, The New Yorker|
There are some other quick indicators that you can look at to help distinguish between a scholarly and a popular source. One of the first indicators will be the article's title -- a scholarly work will usually squeeze a lot of keywords into its title while a popular work will tend to be much more general. A reference list (bibliography/works cited) is also usually an indicator of an academic/scholarly work. The language of a scholarly work may also contain a lot of discipline-specific jargon, and may be denser than the language used in popular works intended to be read by a wide audience. Popular works tend to feature more photographs and pictures, while scholarly works may feature more diagrams. You might also ask yourself a question like, "Would I read this on the bus?" Of course, maybe you would study on the bus, but the general idea is to ask whether the source seems like a casual read or not.