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Evaluating Resources: Journals


Much of the scholarly research published today is published as journal articles. This page will cover how to tell if what you've found is a journal article and the differences between scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular magazines.

Identify journals

As you are searching in the Library and online, sometimes it will be very obvious that you've found a journal article. Other times, it might not be so clear.

Here are a few clues that will help you pick out journal article reference citations:

  • Two titles: A journal will have an article title and a journal title.
  • Volume and issue number: Most journals are organized by volume and issue number. The volume is associated with a specific time frame, usually a year; the issue number reflects each issue published for the volume range.
  • Page numbers: Journal articles generally only cover a certain number of pages.


While you will encounter many different styles for citing articles, they usually contain similar information, just in different orders. In APA 7th, journal article reference citations follow this general format:

Author. (Year). Article title. Journal title, volume number(issue number), page numbers. (“xxxxx” refers to the DOI number)


Here is an example:

Wood, M. (2016). Social marketing for social change. Social Marketing Quarterly, 22(2), 107-118.

Note: Not all journal reference citations will follow this format exactly. If you have questions about citing an article using APA style, please contact the Writing Center.


Here is an example of what the first page of a journal article may look like:

Abstract page:  title, author,  journal, year, volume, issue, page numbers, and DOI

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 Verify 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 a peer-review process; however, there are exceptions. You can use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to verify if a trade publication is peer reviewed.

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, & 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