Is it a Scholarly, Trade, or Popular Publication?


Evaluation Criteria

Scholarly Journal (also called Peer Reviewed or Refereed)

Technical/Trade Journal

Popular Magazine


What’s in them?

Articles that present original research studies. Reviews of books relevant to scholars in the discipline.

Practical information for professionals in the field, including news, trends, and other updates.

Articles (usually brief) that feature a variety of topics -- including news, sports, short stories, art, fashion, etc.

Language is very technical, and article authors assume some scholarly background of the reader.

Articles are generally brief and the language is straightforward, but may contain professional jargon.

Bonus: Trade publications often include job listings.

Articles are written in simple language—no specialized knowledge is needed in order to read an article.


AJS, Bildhaan, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, Science, Social Science Quarterly

Architectural Record, Ceramics Monthly, The Police Chief, Instructor

Rolling Stone, The Economist, Time, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, and Psychology Today.

Who writes for them?

An expert or team of experts in the particular topic of study (Ph.D., researcher, or other scholar).

Professionals or experts in the field.

Writers, usually professional journalists, who are not necessarily experts on the article's topic.

Author’s credentials are usually listed with article.

Author’s credentials are usually listed with article.

Author’s information is often listed on the editorial page of the magazine. Sometimes the authors are not named.

Do they cite their sources?

Sources and references are always cited in scholarly articles—with footnotes or a bibliography.

Sometimes sources and bibliographies are given. This varies depending on the publication.

Articles rarely, if ever, cite resources in a bibliography.

What’s their purpose?

To make the information available to the rest of the scholarly world.

Report on trends in the profession and give practical advice to professionals and other interested readers.

To entertain, provide news, provide information about a hobby or special interest (e.g., gardening, motorcycles) promote a viewpoint, or sell a product.

What do they look like?

Scholarly journals generally have a basic, serious look and often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or colorful pictures.

Trade journals often look more like popular magazines, with glossy pictures. Articles may have graphs and charts. The ads are usually related to the trade.

Glossy and attention-grabbing! Generally contain photos, perfume samples, and lots of advertisements.

What is their review process?

Scholarly articles go through a peer review (referee) process where other scholars in the field evaluate the content of the article. The articles are edited for grammar, format, etc.

Articles are reviewed by the magazine’s editorial staff, including copyediting for spelling, grammar, etc. Some trade journal articles go through some sort of peer review process—see the publication’s website (or editorial page) to find out.

Articles are reviewed by the magazine’s editorial staff, including copyediting for spelling, grammar, etc.

Chart from Hunter Library at Western Carolina University.  (Chart design inspired by many library charts including
Colorado State University Libraries and Springfield Township Virtual Library.
Explanation based on Cornell University Library "Skill Guide No. 20")