Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Periodicals

The quality and characteristics of the information found in each type of periodical is different. When you do library research for a term paper, you are mostly asked to use articles that come from scholarly journals. This guide will help you to understand the characteristics of each type and to distinguish between them.

Scholarly Periodicals  

Purpose/Intended Audience:  They are written by researchers and scholars to report and share the results of their research and experiment in a specific subject with the rest of their peers in the field. The language of these articles contains the vocabulary of the discipline which sometimes makes it hard for students to understand.

Appearance: Plain look with very little advertising. Scholarly articles usually consist of an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, references, and a bibliography, that list the sources they have used for their research, at the end of the article. Many times tables, graphs or illustrations are included to support the research findings. Articles are longer.

Authority: The articles are usually written by the authors who have done the research or the experiment. Before being published, such materials are reviewed by a board of experts within their discipline for validity and reliability purposes. This is why scholarly articles are also called "peer-reviewed".

Examples: Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA); Educational Researcher; Journal of Marketing Research; Psychobiology; American Music

See Popular vs. Scholarly Articles (Vanderbilt University)

Trade or Professional Periodicals

Purpose/Intended Audience: They are written to provide specialized information to the practitioners of a specific profession or tradeCurrent trends, events, concerns and problems in a particular profession or industry are also discussed. The language of these articles assumes that the readers have a level of specialized knowledge. 

Appearance: Bright cover and advertising that appeals to those in the industry. The articles do not follow a specific format. They do not have an abstract; their sources are mostly not cited and they do not have references or bibliographies at the end of the articles. Articles are short.

Authority: The articles are written by staff or by other professionals in the industry and they are reviewed by general editors.

Examples: PA Professional; Action in Teacher Education; Adweek; Educational Psychologist; Billboard

Popular Magazines

Purpose/Intended Audience: They are written to attract a broad segment of the population and are designed mainly to entertain their readers in a variety of general interest topics or persuade them to buy products. The language is simple in an attempt to entertain a wide and general audience. 

Appearance:  Popular magazines have eye-catching covers, slick and glossy paper,and contain a lot of advertising. The articles do not follow any specific format but they are usually short.

Authority: The information may or may not be valid. Mostly have second or third-hand information based on opinions rather than facts. We should avoid quoting these articles in a term paper.

Examples: Prevention; Education Week; Business Week; Psychology Today; Rolling Stone