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Magnifying glass How to Recognize a Scholarly Journal

What is a scholarly journal? A popular magazine? A trade journal?


Many instructors require that your research include articles from scholarly journals. Some of the databases you are likely to use will contain popular magazines and trade journals, as well as to scholarly journals. Use the chart below to help tell the difference

Scholarly Journal
  • Has serious, sober appearance with few colors and pictures
  • Intended for limited, academic audience
  • The words “Journal”, “Abstracts,” or “Proceedings” may appear in the title
  • Articles are written by scholars, are peer-reviewed, and signed
  • More complex writing style, bibliographies and footnotes are usually included
  • Main purpose is to report on original research.
  • Usually published bimonthly, quarterly, or annually
  • Articles are often consecutively numbered from one issue to the next
  • Examples–Latin American Perspectives, The Yale Review, American Journal of Sociology, Anthropology Abstracts

scholarly journal picture

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Popular Magazine
  • May have a bright, attractive cover and many glossy pictures
  • Designed to attract a broad segment of the population
  • Titles are often short and easily understood
  • Characterized by short articles written by staff, often unsigned
  • Non-technical, popular writing style, easy to understand
  • Focus on current events, popular topics
  • Usually published daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Generally published for profit
  • Examples–Time, Rolling Stone, Psychology Today, Current Biography

Popular magazine image

Trade Journal
  • Provides information of use to a particular industry or profession
  • Advertising will have particular appeal to those in the field
  • May have a format similar to popular magazines – glossy, colorful
  • Articles are often written by professionals in the specific field involved
  • Articles tend to be shorter than in scholarly journals with a less complex writing style
  • If there is a report on new research, it is more likely to be a summary of a more scholarly presentation
  • Usually published monthly
  • Coverage of trade shows or conferences is common
  • Examples--School Library Journal, Science Teacher, Technology and Learning

Trade journal example