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Popular vs Scholarly  

Quick overview of the differences between popular, trade, and scholarly publications
Last Updated: Aug 30, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Popular vs Scholary video tutorial

View this tutorial from the Hartness Library, which serves Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont.

    Popular vs Scholarly

Evaluation Criteria Popular Magazine    Technical/Trade Journal Scholarly Journal

 cover of Psychology Today



What's in them?

Articles (usually brief) that feature a variety of topics -- including news, sports, short stories, art, fashion, etc.


Articles are written in simple language—no specialized knowledge is needed in order to read an article


Practical information for professionals in the field, including news, trends, and other updates.

Articles are generally brief and the language is straightforward, but may contain professional jargon.

Bonus: Trade publications often include job listings.

Articles that present original research studies. Reviews of books relevant to scholars in the discipline.

Language is very technical, and article authors assume some scholarly background of the reader.

What's their purpose? To entertain, provide news, provide information about a hobby or special interest (e.g., gardening, motorcycles) promote a viewpoint, or sell a product. Report on trends in the profession and give practical advice to professionals and other interested readers. To make the information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
Examples Rolling Stone, Newsweek Time, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, and Psychology Today.   Construction Bulletin, The CPA Journal, The Police Chief, Women’s Wear Daily  Child Development, Nature, College English, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 
Who writes for them?

Writers, usually professional journalists, who are not necessarily experts on the article's topic.

Author's information is often listed on the editorial page of the magazine. Sometimes the authors are not named?

Professionals or experts in the field.

Author’s credentials are usually listed with article.

An expert or team of experts in the particular topic of study (Ph.D., researcher, or other scholar).

Author's credentials are usually listed with the article.

Do they cite their sources? Articles rarely, if ever, cite resources. Information often second or third-hand and original source often obscure Sometimes sources and bibliographies are given. This varies depending on the publication. Sources and references are always cited in scholarly articles—with footnotes or a bibliography.
What do they look like? Glossy and attention-grabbing! Generally contain photos, perfume samples, and lots of advertisements. Trade journals often look more like popular magazines, with glossy pictures. Articles may have graphs and charts. The ads are usually related to the trade. Scholarly journals generally have a basic, serious look and often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or colorful pictures.
What is their review process? Articles are reviewed by the magazine’s editorial staff, including copyediting for spelling, grammar, etc. Articles are reviewed by the magazine’s editorial staff, including copyediting for spelling, grammar, etc. Some trade journal articles go through some sort of peer review process—see the publication’s website (or editorial page) to find out.

Scholarly articles go through a peer review (referee) process where other scholars in the field evaluate the content of the article. The articles are edited for grammar, format, etc.

Need more info? Check out this great video: Peer Review in Five Minutes

Based on Scholarly vs Popular Periodicals LibGuide created by Heidy Buchanon, Librarian, Hunter Library, Western Carolina University. Used with permission.


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