I have heard the words "academic" and "scholarly" used interchangeably, like "academic journal" and "scholarly journal", but I was wondering if there is a difference between them. Do they mean the same thing, or is there a distinction between them?

  • 1
    Have you tried a dictionary?
    – alphabet
    Commented Jan 9 at 2:02
  • There's probably not much difference when referring to journals. But I think "academic writing" means writing in an academic context (journals, theses, even term papers), while "scholarly writing" means writing in the style that a scholar would use.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 9 at 21:12
  • In other situations one has to be careful to avoid other meanings of academic if they are not intended, including: "very learned but inexperienced in practical matters: academic thinkers" and "theoretical, speculative: a purely academic question" M-W
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Jan 9 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


In some contexts, the two words are indeed interchangeable, and dictionaries may define them in terms of each other. A journal that is devoted to publishing the results of current research in a particular field and in which typical authors hold doctoral degrees in that field, or are well on their way to earning them, can thus be referred to as either an academic journal or a scholarly journal.

The word scholar is, however usually reserved for the researchers whose work is in the humanities. Roughly, the researchers who spend most of their time in large libraries, or their virtual equivalents, may be called scholars, in that sense, but not those who spend most of their time in laboratories. The word scholarly is then sometimes used with the same limitation to the humanities.

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