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Magazines, trade journals, and scholarly journals

Periodicals are usually separated into several major groups: popular, trade, and scholarly. If you are able to recognize the differences between these sources, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of information you need.

Popular magazines like People, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone can be good sources for articles on recent events or pop-culture topics, while Harpers, Scientific American, and The New Republic will offer more in-depth articles on a wider range of subjects. These articles are geared towards readers who, although not experts, are knowledgeable about the issues presented.

Trade journals are geared towards professionals in a discipline. They report news and trends in a field, but not original research. They may provide product or service reviews, job listings, and advertisements.

Scholarly journals provider articles of interest to experts or researchers in a discipline. An editorial board of respected scholars (peers) reviews all articles submitted to a journal. They decide if the article provides a noteworthy contribution to the field and should be published. There are typically little or no advertisements. Articles published in scholarly will include a list of references.

Peer review is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process. See also our FAQ on how to find peer-reviewed articles.


National Geographic Magazine


Trade journal Trade journal


Academic journal Academic journal

Article title


Eating Green

Discusses environmentally conscious eating choices. Consumers can choose organic options, purchase locally grown foods, and walk or bike to farmers markets to help reduce their carbon footprints.

Is Local Better?

The author reports that eating local at the basic level makes sense because fewer food miles, or the distance food travels before it reaches the consumer, equal fewer emissions.

Evidence for most and least fattening local eating: customs from individuals' reports in their culture's terms

The least fattening patterns of behavior can be identified in a culture's own words.

Audience General public Practitioners Researchers working in the field
Bibliography No Sometimes Yes

Article length/depth


  • More of an overview
  • Current events
  • General interest articles
  • Articles will be of interest to those working in that field
  • Purpose will be to offer advice and tips to those in the trade
  • Long and very focused
  • Will have a very specialized vocabulary
  • Article structure will usually contain abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, references
Review policy Magazine editor Magazine editor and possibly a board

Editorial board/ scholars in the field


Author Journalist or specialist Someone working in the field Researcher/ export in the field
  • Glossy
  • Many graphics
  • Many advertisements
  • Glossy
  • Advertising specific to that trade
  • Lengthy articles
  • Often includes charts, graphs, statistics
  • Little or no advertising

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