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Library Homepage: What is a Scholarly Journal

The WCTC Library serves the students, faculty, staff, and residents of the Waukesha County Technical College district.

Periodicals: Scholarly, Popular or Trade?

There is not always a clear-cut division between types of publications, but this table offers some clues to help you distinguish between scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade journals. Not all features have to be present to make a publication "scholarly." 



Scholarly Journal

Trade Publication

Popular Magazine

Audience Scholars, researchers, students of the field People in a particular industry General public
Written by Specialists in the field, usually scholars with Ph.D.s Industry practitioners and professional writers Journalists; poets and writers of fiction; essayists
Appearance Serious and sober, with few colors and few or no advertisements Glossy, with advertisements aimed at the industry Glossy, with pictures and advertisements
Coverage Original research results and scholarship Industry trends, news and statistics Popular topics and current events

Are signed and often include author's credentials

Often have many joint authors

Are written in technical and scholarly language

May be peer reviewed or "refereed" before publication by an editorial board or outside scholars

Are not always signed by the author

May include jargon specific to the industry

Are not always signed by the author

Are written in relatively simple language

Written for a general public audience

Length Articles are usually lengthy - often 10 or more pages Articles are usually under 10 pages in length Articles are usually under 10 pages in length
Slant Supposed to present objective/neutral viewpoint; often published by professional associations, like the American Psychological Association, or by university presses May reflect the industry's point of view, particularly on regulatory and legislative issues; often published by trade associations or by for-profit corporations May reflect the editorial bias/slant of the magazine; usually published by commercial entities
Frequency Usually quarterly, sometimes monthly Usually weekly or monthly Usually weekly or monthly
References Cited Usually includes a bibliography and/or footnotes Few footnotes; bibliographies are rare Usually has no bibliography or footnotes
Examples Journal of Practical Nursing; Criminal Law Bulletin; Child Development Advertising Age, Hotel and Motel Management; Travel Weekly Newsweek, Men's Health, Sports Illustrated, Ladies' Home Journal

Adapted from page created by Jan Lewis, based on Selecting the Right Source (UCLA), Is it a Scholarly Journal? A Magazine? A Trade Journal? (VCU), and Scholarly (Professional) Journals Versus popular (General) Magazines (U. Minn.).

Periodicals Handout