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Research: Getting Started: Publications: Scholarly, Trade and Popular

Helpful tools for beginning a research project. Useful for ENG 145 - English Composition and beyond.

Journal Types

Journals, also known as periodicals or magazines, generally fall under three categories:

  • Scholarly Journals
  • Trade Publications
  • Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journals are written by academics for academics. They are generally focused on a specific academic field or discipline. Their purpose is to advance scholarship in that field by publishing in-depth research studies. Most scholarly journals are also peer reviewed. In fact, in a number of library databases, when you limit your results to only scholarly journals you also limit your results to only peer reviewed journals. You can find out more about the peer review process on our Peer Review Guide.

Trade Publications

Trade publications, or professional magazines, are written by staff writers or practitioners in a given trade or profession. The intent is to share industry news, trends, and advances. They are also used to advertise trade specific products and job openings. Most trade publications do not undergo the peer review process; however, there are exceptions.

Popular Magazines

Popular magazines are written by journalists to inform or entertain the general public. They cover current events, celebrities, sports, fashion, etc. They are not peer reviewed and generally contain a large number of advertisements.

Scholarly, Trade or Popular

The chart below goes over some of the main differences between scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular magazines.

Publication Comparison Chart:
Details Scholarly Journals Trade Publications Popular Magazines
Purpose Report on research studies, advance knowledge Provide news, information on an industry Inform, entertain
Scope Narrow focus on one academic field Practical information for a specific industry Broad overview of topics
Content Research reports, methodology, theory Industry trends, products, association news News, opinions, general interest
Accountability     Peer reviewed Professional ethics Journalistic ethics
Audience Students, researchers, scholars Professionals, practitioners  General public
Title Often includes journal, review, or bulletin Often includes industry name Rarely includes journal, review, or bulletin
Author(s) Experts, scholars, specialists Professionals, staff writers Journalists
Writing Style Scholarly, technical Technical Informal, journalistic, conversational
Language Technical, assumes a scholarly background Industry jargon Easily accessible
Article Length Longer Moderate Short
Organization Structured; abstract, literature review, methodology, etc No specific format or structure No specific format or structure
Abstract Yes Maybe No
Visuals Graphs, charts that support the research Pictures, illustrations Pictures, illustrations 
Bibliography Always cite sources, bibliography in accepted style May cite sources Rarely cite sources
Publisher Academic press, professional organization Professional, trade association Commercial publisher

Peer Review

Peer review is a scholarly form of review used by journals only for journal articles. After an article is sent to an academic journal, the editor sends it to several peer reviewerstypically scholars in the fieldfor evaluation.

These peer reviewers examine the paper's methodology, literature review, and conclusions. They note the existence of bias or other flaws. The peer reviewers may accept the article, require rewrites from the authors, or reject the article.

If you are asked to find articles that are peer-reviewed, what you are really looking for are articles from a peer-reviewed journal.

Peer review can also be called: 

  • blind peer review
  • scholarly peer review
  • refereeing or refereed


Search Tip:  Peer-reviewed journals may also contain items that are not peer reviewed, such as letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and book reviews. Even if you check the peer-review limiter box, you still need to examine the items carefully to be sure they are articles.

Information courtesy of Oregon State University Libraries

One of the best places to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed is to go to the journal website.

Most publishers have a website for a journal that tells you about the journal, how authors can submit an article, and what the process is for getting published.

If you find the journal website, look for the link that says information for authors, instructions for authors, submitting an article or something similar.

This information is often listed in the following areas:

  • about us
  • editorial policies
  • instructions for authors
  • submission guidelines

A simple Google search for the journal will usually locate the journal's website.

Examples of Editorial Policies:

Another place to find out if the journal is peer-reviewed is to use one of the online databases.

For example, if you know that articles from your journal appear in the Academic Search Complete database, you can search for the journal in the database and learn more about it.

Go to Academic Search Complete and click on Publications at the top of the screen.

Enter the name of the journal and click browse. If the journal is included in the database, you will see it in the list of results.

This will take you to the journal information. At the bottom, you can see that this journal is peer-reviewed.

 NOTE: Academic Search Complete does not include all journals so the one you are looking for may not be listed here


Information on this page courtesy of Walden University Library.