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last updated: 3/4/2012

Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Publications

A scholarly journal contains articles and letters written by scholars to report results of research and other scholarly activities. For most academic papers, scholarly articles are excellent and preferred sources for supporting your arguments. For a more comprehensive definition of what constitutes a scholarly journal, see Yale University's Writing Center page.

A trade publication or trade journal is a periodical or magazine printed with the intention of target marketing to a specific industry or type of trade/business. Trade journals typically contain advertising content focused on the industry in question with little if any general-audience advertising. They also generally contain industry-specific job notices.

A popular magazine contains nformation, especially articles, written to entertain or inform the general public.

Use the following criteria to determine whether an article comes from a scholarly journal, a trade publication, or a popular magazine: Accountability, Audience, Author, Content, Graphics, Language, Layout & Organization, References.


Scholarly Journal

Trade Publication

Popular Magazine


Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology

Architectural Record

Time Magazine


Peer-reviewed (also called refereed) journals refer only to those scholarly journals that submit articles to several other scholars, experts, or academics (peers) in the field for review and comment.

Reviewers verify the article's information as well as the validity of the article's argument and must agree that the article represents properly conducted original research or writing before it can be published.

Articles are evaluated by editorial staff who may be experts in the field, not peer-reviewed.

Generally published by commercial enterprises or individuals, although some emanate from specific professional organizations.

Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field.

Edited for format and style.


The scholarly researcher, faculty and students.

Professionals in the field and the interested non-specialist.

The general public and the interested non-specialist.


Articles are written by experts in the field.

Include author credentials.

Affiliations of authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article.

Articles may be written by a member of the editorial staff, a scholar or a free lance writer.

Author is usually a professional in the field, sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.

Article may be written by a member of the editorial staff or a free lance writer.

Author is frequently a journalist paid to write articles; may or may not have subject expertise.


Articles contain an abstract (descriptive summary of the article contents) before the main text of the article.

Often report original research and reviews while expanding on existing theories.

Offer critiques on previously published materials.

Report current news, trends and products in a specific industry.

Include practical information for professionals working in the field or industry.

Cover notices about people, organizations, new publications, conferences, and topical issues in a field

Articles are typically a secondary discussion of someone else's research; may include personal narrative or opinion.

Cover news, current events, hobbies or special interests.


Illustrations are few and support the text, typically in the form of charts, graphs and maps.

Few or no advertisements.

Photographs, graphics and charts.

Publications often contain trade-related advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.

Publications are slick and attractive in appearance with color graphics.

Contain lots of glossy advertisements and photographs.


Specialized terminology or jargon of the field.

Assume that the reader is familiar with the subject.

Specialized terminology or jargon of the field, but not as technical as a scholarly journal.

Geared to any educated audience with an interest in the field.

Articles are usually very short and written in simple language.

Vocabulary is general and easily understandable to most readers.

Language is geared for any educated audience, and does not assume familiarity with the subject matter.

Layout & Organization

Very structured.

Includes the article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.

Page numbers are consecutive throughout the volume.

Example: Issue 1 will end on page 455; Issue 2 will begin on page 456.


Articles organized like a journal or a newsletter.

Typically use glossy paper.

Very informal.

May include non-standard formatting.

May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion.


Quotes and facts are verifiable.

Sources are always cited in the form of footnotes or bibliographies.

Bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.

Occasionally include brief bibliographies.

Not required to report any research results.

Sources are sometimes cited, but do not usually include footnotes or a bibliography

Information is often second or third hand and the original source is rarely mentioned.


Annals of Mathematics

Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Hisotry of Education Quarterly

Architectural Record

PC World

Psychology Today

Sports Illustrated

National Geographic




Need additional help? For further assistance with any topic you can always Ask a Librarian.

last updated: 3/4/2012