Scholarly Journals, Trade Publications, and Popular Magazines

When doing research, it is useful to know what the different classifications for publications mean.

A publication is considered scholarly if it is authored by academics for a target audience that is mainly academic. The intent of the publication must be to report on or support research needs as well as advance one's knowledge on a topic or theory in one discipline or academic field. The publication will likely be peer reviewed or refereed by external reviewers. The publisher should be a professional association or an academic press with academic goals and missions.  

A publication is considered to be peer-reviewed (or refereed) if its articles go through an official editorial process that involves review and approval by the author's peers (people who are experts in the same subject area.) Most (but not all) scholarly publications are peer reviewed. Some trade publications are actually peer reviewed.

Scholarly Journals

Trade Publications

Popular Magazines

Appearance

Plain, formal, sober, serious

Industry setting, glossy, in color

Flashy, attractive, glossy, colorful

   Cover

Plain

Depicts industrial setting

Eye-catching

   Paper

Plain

Glossy

Glossy

   Illustrations

Black and white

Color

Color

   Advertisements

Few or none

Moderate, most trade related

Heavy

   Article length

Longer

Moderate

Shorter

Content

Research projects, methodology, & theory

Industry trends, products or techniques, & organizational news

Personalities, news, opinions, & general interest articles

   Title

Often includes terms such as “journal,” “review,” or “bulletin”

Often includes industry name: “aviation,” “restaurant,” “engineering”

Rarely includes terms such as “journal,” review,” or “bulletin”

   Purpose, intent

Report research, advance knowledge

Provide practical industry information

Inform, persuade, or entertain

  Scope

Narrow focus, in depth analysis of one academic field or discipline

Practical information within one industry or profession

Broad overview of topics

  Audience

Academic or professional: professors, researchers, students

Members of a specific business, industry or profession

General public,
non-professionals

   Structure

Structured sections: abstract, results

No specific format or structure

No specific format or structure

   Accountability

Bibliographies, endnotes, footnotes

Controlled by peer-review process

May have short bibliographies

Controlled by journalistic or professional ethics

No bibliographies

Controlled by journalistic ethics

   Bibliography

Yes—Always cite sources

Maybe—Rarely formally cite sources

No—Rarely cite sources

   Abstract

Yes

Maybe

No

  Editors

Accept peers’ articles

Assign or accept articles

Assign specific articles

   Author

Authority, expert, or specialist

Compensated with prestige

Staff writer or industry specialist

Paid

Journalist, staff, or freelance writer

Paid

   Credentials,  
  affiliation

Always given

Often provided

Rarely provided

   Review process

Peer-reviewed or refereed

Editorial review

Editorial review, NOT peer-reviewed

  Language

Jargon of the discipline

Jargon of the industry

General audience reading level

   Writing style

Scholarly or technical

Technical

Informal, journalistic, conversational

   Support of argument

Research build on prior research

Professional knowledge

Confirmed sources

Publishing

   Publisher

Professional assn. or academic press

Professional or trade association

Commercial press

   Frequency of
  publication

Monthly, quarterly, semi-annually

Weekly, monthly

Daily, weekly, monthly

   Issues

Tend to be successively numbered

Begin with page 1

Begin with page 1

   Access, availability

University library, lab, or office

Subscription; libraries have few

Newsstand, libraries, or home subscription

Adapted from Proquests’s “Scholarly Journals, Trade Publications, and Popular Magazines.” http://training.proquest.com/trc/training/en/peervsscholarly.pdf.  Accessed July 29, 2010.