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Is it Scholarly or Not?

What is a Scholarly Journal? A Popular Magazine? A Trade Journal?

Sometimes an instructor will require that your research include articles from scholarly journals. Many online databases can contain references to scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade journals. How can you tell the difference? There is no clear-cut definition of a scholarly journal. A scholarly journal will have a majority of the features listed below. If in doubt, ask your instructor or a librarian.

Scholarly Journal Popular Magazine Trade Journal
  • may have a serious, sober appearance, few bright colors
  • main purpose is to report on original research
  • the words “Journal,” “Transactions,” “Proceedings,” or “Quarterly,” may appear in the title
  • intended for a more limited (academic) audience
  • usually published by a scholarly publisher (like a university press)
  • articles are written by scholars in the field and are usually signed
  • more complex writing style
  • includes research articles on special topics
  • may include graphs, tables, charts
  • articles usually “peer-reviewed” or have editorial review prior to being published
  • articles usually include bibliographies
  • articles are often consecutively numbered from one issue to the next
  • usually published bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually
  • may have a bright, attractive cover, many glossy pictures
  • focus on current events, popular topics of the day
  • designed to attract a broad segment of the population
  • usually published by a commercial publisher
  • characterized by short articles written by staff, often articles are unsigned
  • non-technical, popular writing style, easy to understand
  • usually published daily, weekly or monthly
  • may have a format similar to popular magazines; flashy
  • provide information of use to a particular industry
  • advertising will appeal to those in the field
  • popular writhing style, might use jargon of the industry
  • often published weekly or monthly
Scholarly Journal Example
(Click to view & compare)
Popular Magazine Example
(Click to view & compare)
Trade Journal Example
(Click to view & compare)
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*Based on content from the Minneapolis Community & Technical College Library