University Library & Learning Resources Center

Popular Magazines, Trade Journals, & Scholarly Journals

While these three types of publications include articles and are published periodically, their differences are significant. You'll need to understand these differences because:

  • articles from scholarly journals are not cited exactly like those from magazines or trade journals.
  • you may be required to use articles from only one of these publication types for your research.

Consult the table below to learn about the characteristics of popular magazines, trade journals, and scholarly journals. The magazines and journals to which the Library subscribes are located on the 3rd floor. Try comparing some to the characteristics shown here.

If you are viewing an article in a full-text article database, you won't have the visual clues apparent when looking at the publication itself. The most obvious difference is that sources used by the authors of scholarly journal articles for their research are cited. You'll rarely find sources cited in magazine or trade journal articles.

Characteristics Popular Magazines Trade Journals Scholarly Journals
Examples Ebony
Business Week
Sports Illustrated
Africa Mining Intelligence
Broadcasting & Cable
Airline Business
Sports Marketing
Journal of Black Studies
Political Research Quarterly
Journal of Business Research
Science & Sports

Purpose entertain or inform about the news, hobbies, sports, health, and other topics appealing to the general public inform about issues related to a an industry publish original research in a field

articles are often peer reviewed prior to publication to ensure quality
Audience general public workers in an industry scholars
Publication Frequency usually weekly or monthly usually weekly or monthly often quarterly
Layout glossy pages

lots of color illustrations

many advertisements for a variety of products
glossy pages

lots of color illustrations

advertisements specific to the industry
graphs, charts, tables

few if any color illustrations

few advertisements often related to the publisher
Article Authors staff writers
freelance writers
sometimes anonymous
staff writers
freelance writers
industry experts
other experts
Language Used in Articles usually written at a level understood by many people uses jargon related to the industry uses scholarly or highly technical language understood by those with some background knowledge
Article Length short short lengthy
Sources Cited in Articles rarely rarely almost always cited in footnotes, endnotes, references, works cited, or bibliogarphy

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Alabama State University
University Library & Learning Resources Center
Authored by: Barbara Hightower, Information Literacy Librarian
All contents copyright 2003, ASU. All rights reserved.
April 4, 2003