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Nursing: What's a Scholarly Journal

Resources for Nursing Students

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." 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.). 



Scholarly Journal

Trade Publication

Popular Magazine


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


Serious and sober, with few colors and few or no advertisements

Glossy, with advertisements aimed at the industry

Glossy, with pictures and advertisements


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



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


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


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





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