Scholarly Journals vs. Trade Magazines vs. Popular Magazines

In academic research it is important to distinguish between scholarly, trade and popular sources. Check with your professor to find out if popular magazines are acceptable sources for your paper.

Some very general criteria for distinguishing between the three types of sources are:

Scholarly Journals Trade Magazines Popular Magazines
Overall Look
and Layout
Plain cover and paper.

Primarily print with few pictures.

Tables, graphs and diagrams are often included.

If there are ads, they are for books or conferences.

Cover often depicts industrial setting.

Glossy paper.

Pictures and illustrations in color.

Ads are mostly trade related.

Eye-catching cover and glossy paper.

Pictures and illustrations in color.

Colorful ads for commercial products.

Audience Scholars, researchers, practitioners. Members of a specific business, industry or organization. General public.
Authors Experts in the field (ie faculty members, researchers).

Authors named and institutional affiliations given.

Magazine staff members, contributing authors or freelance writers.

Authors usually named.

Magazine staff members, journalists, freelance writers.

Authors may be anonymous (i.e., articles are unsigned).

Editors Editorial board of outside scholars (known as peer review). Editors work for publisher. Editors work for publisher.
Publishers Often a scholarly or professional organization or a university press. Often a trade organization. Commercial, for profit.
Content Research projects, methodology, literary criticism, and theory. Industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news. News, personalities, and general interest articles.
Writing Style 
and Language
Uses terminology, jargon and language of the discipline covered.

Assumes reader has similarly scholarly background.

Uses terminology and language of trade or industry covered. Easy to read, simple language used.

Aimed at the layperson.

or Bibliographies
Articles include a bibliography, references, notes and/or works cited section Articles may have short bibliographies. Articles rarely include references.
Examples Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Psychology of Women Quarterly

Studies in Romanticism

APA Monitor

Advertising Age

Chilton's Food Engineering


Parents Magazine

Psychology Today


What is "peer review"?:
"Peer review" (or "refereed journals") refers to the policy of having experts in the field examine a submitted article before accepting it for publication. The peer review (or referee) process insures that the research described in a journal's articles is sound and of high quality. Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory.(REF Z6941 .U5) Volume 5 lists "Refereed Journals" in alphabetical order. The descriptions of sources in Magazines for Libraries (REF Z6941 .M23) can also help determine if an item is scholarly, trade or popular.

For Further information: Peer Review