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Publication Comparison Chart: Publications

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 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 the 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 They are not peer reviewed and generally contain a large number of advertisements.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