What is a Scholarly Journal? A Popular Magazine? A Trade Journal?

Sometimes an instructor will require that your research include articles from scholarly journals. Many indexes (especially the online databases) can contain references to scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade journals. How can you tell the difference? There is no clear-cut definition of a scholarly journal. A scholarly journal will have a majority of the features listed below. If in doubt, ask your instructor or a librarian.
 
Scholarly Journal Popular Magazine Trade Journal
  • may have a serious, sober appearance, few bright colors
  • the words "Journal," "Transactions," "Proceedings," or "Quarterly," may appear in the title
  • intended for a more limited (academic) audience
  • usually published by a scholarly publisher (like a university press)
  • articles are written by scholars in the field and are usually signed
  • articles are often consecutively numbered from one issue to the next
  • main purpose is to report on original research
  • more complex writing style
  • includes research articles on special topics
  • may include graphs, tables, charts
  • articles usually include bibliographies
  • usually published bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually
 
  • may have a bright, attractive cover, many glossy pictures
  • designed to attract a broad segment of the population
  • usually published by a commercial publisher
  • characterized by short articles written by staff, often articles are unsigned
  • non-technical, popular writing style, easy to understand
  • focus on current events, popular topics of the day
  • usually published daily, weekly or monthly
 
  • provide information of use to a particular industry
  • advertising will appeal to those in the field
  • may have a format similar to popular magazines; flashy
 
Scholarly Journal Examples
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Popular Magazine Examples
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Trade Journal Examples
(Click to view & compare) 
Journal of Applied Physics

Latin American Perspectives
 


BusinessWeek

Newsweek
 

Advertising Age

Computer World
 


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