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Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines   Tags: finding_articles, library_research, research_basics  

Has your professor specified that you need to use peer reviewed or scholarly journals for your research? Use this guide to learn about these different publications, what kind of information they contain, and where to find them.
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Types of Publications Print Page

Scholarly vs. Popular


Magazines vs. Journals


From Idea to Library

This video was developed by the Kishwaukee College Library.


Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, Trade Publications

What is a Scholarly Journal?

Scholarly journals are generally published by and for experts. A publication is considered to be peer reviewed if its articles go through an official editorial process that involves review and approval by the author’s peers (people who are experts in the same subject area.) Articles in scholarly journals present new, previously unpublished research. Scholarly sources will almost always include:

  • Bibliography and footnotes
  • Author’s name and academic credentials

Use scholarly journals for highly focused original research. 

Examples: AMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, African American Review, Modern Fiction Studies, American Psychologist and American Sociological Review 

What is a Popular Magazine?

Articles in popular magazines tend to be written by staff writers or freelance journalists and are geared towards a general audience. While most magazines adhere to editorial standards, articles do not go through a peer review process and rarely contain bibliographic citations. Popular magazines are periodicals that one typically finds at grocery stores, airport newsstands, or bookstores. Use popular magazines for a general overview of current news and opinions, or firsthand accounts of an event.

Examples: Popular magazines range from highly respected publications such as Scientific American and The Atlantic Monthly to general interest magazines like People, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek and US News & World Report.

What is a Trade Publication?

Trade publications focus on a specific profession or trade. Articles in trade magazines cover the interest of skilled laborers, technicians, and artisans. Professional magazines cover the interests of professors, librarians, and members of other fields that require advanced degrees. Subject magazines cover a topic of interest to one or more professions. Use trade magazines for overviews of news and research in a particular field.

Examples: Legal Assistant Today and Library Journal


Side by Side Comparison - Scholarly, Popular, Trade









  • Plain cover
  • Plain paper
  • B&W graphics and illustrations
  • No pictures
  • Pages are consecutive throughout the volume


    Web site:

    •  plain, functional


    • Eye-catching cover
    • Glossy paper
    • Color pictures and illustrations
    • Each issue starts
      page 1



    Web site:

    •  “flashy”


    • Cover depicts industrial setting
    • Glossy pictures and illustrations
    • Each issue starts with page 1



    Web site:

    • varies from flashy to   plain/functional


    Scholars, researchers, students

    General public

    People in the business or industry



    News and research (methodology, theory) from the field

    Current events, personalities, and general interest articles

    Industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news



    Written for experts using technical language

    Journalistic; written for nonprofessional or layperson.

    Written for people in the business or industry using technical language


    Experts, scholars

    Journalists, staff

    Practitioners, staff



    Peer reviewed, refereed


    Always bibliographies

    Editorial review


    No bibliographies

    Editorial review


    May have short bibliographies


    Few or none

    Many, often in color

    Some, often in color


    Usually monthly or quarterly

    Usually weekly or monthly

    Usually weekly or monthly



    American Journal of Nursing


    Journal of Social Issues

    Rolling Stone



    American Libraries


    Chronicles of Higher Education


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