General Research Guides

Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals

When doing academic research, you may need to include scholarly journals in your work. Journals and magazines are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines. Scholarly journals differ from popular magazines, as well as trade publications, in their content, appearance, and audience, for example. The differences between them are not always clear-cut, but the chart below will help distinguish them. Also keep in mind that popular and trade publications can include articles that are appropriate for academic research.

  Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines Trade Publications

To present original research in an academic area

To report on the research of others, to inform, to entertain, and/or to sell products

To provide information to people working within a specific industry or profession


Plain, serious look; may contain charts and graphs; seldom have glossy photos

Usually glossy paper; heavily illustrated with photos, illustrations, graphics

Often contain charts, graphs, and some illustrative material relevant to a specific industry or profession


A scholar or researcher in an academic field

Journalists, staff writers, freelance writers

Professionals in the industry of the publication


Scholars and students in an academic field

General public

People working within a specific industry

Research Methods

References cited in footnotes and/or bibliographies

Sources may sometimes be cited in text, but information is often secondhand or thirdhand with no original source cited

Articles might contain market statistics, industry trends, product information, but rarely references

Article Length

Long, in-depth articles

Shorter articles with broad overviews of topics

Usually short articles, press releases

Review Methods

Peer-reviewed by a group of scholars in the specific academic discipline before being accepted for publication

Not peer-reviewed, but generally reviewed by an editor and/or fact checker

Not peer-reviewed, but generally reviewed by an editor or an industry marketing rep


Academic language of a specific discipline may be used; may assume some scholarly background on the part of the reader

Can range from language geared to an educated audience to simple language written for a lower reading level

Written using the terminology of the professional field


Often an academic association or university

Commercial publishers

Commercial publishers, professional organizations


Very little

Almost always contain ads

Usually contain advertising related to the industry

Sample Titles

American Economic Review;
Archives of Sexual Behavior;
Journal of Communication;
Journal of Business Ethics

The Economist;
National Geographic;
Psychology Today
Sports Illustrated

Radio and Records;
Advertising Age
Broadcasting and Cable

Some electronic research databases, such as EBSCO, allow you to limit your search by scholarly journals, magazines, or trade publications.

Page Last Updated: October 01 2015

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Research Tips

These Research Guides have been prepared by librarians to assist with your research. Read more:

Evaluating Web Resources

Critically Analyzing Information Sources

Searching Electronic Resources Effectively

For more information on citation style, see:

Citing Your Research

Related Guides

Critically Analyzing Information Sources

Finding Periodicals in Bowman Library