Popular, Scholarly and Trade Magazines

University of Texas Libraries

Telling the difference between popular, scholarly and trade Magazines

Journals and magazines have different purposes and audiences and can be divided into three broad categories: scholarly, popular, and trade based on the characteristics such as purpose, audience, authorship, and content. Below are selected key differences between between popular, scholarly, and trade publications.

  • Popular magazine articles are typically written by journalists to entertain or inform a general audience,
  • Scholarly articles are written by researchers or experts in a particular field. They use specialized vocabulary, have extensive citations, and are often peer-reviewed.
  • Trade publications may be written by experts in a certain industry, but they are not considered scholarly, as they share general news, trends, and opinions, rather than advanced research, and are not peer-reviewed.

The physical appearance of print sources can help you identify the type of source as well. Popular magazines and trade publications are usually glossy with many photos. Scholarly journals are usually smaller and thicker with plain covers and images, In electronic sources you can check for bibliographies and author credentials or affiliations as potential indicators of scholarly sources.

Popular Magazines Scholarly (including peer-reviewed) Trade Publications
Content Current events; general interest articles Research results/reports; reviews of research (review articles); book reviews Articles about a certain business or industry
Purpose To inform, entertain, or elicit an emotional response To share research or scholarship with the academic community To inform about business or industry news, trends, or products
Author Staff writers, journalists, freelancers Scholars/researchers Staff writers, business/industry professionals
Audience General public Scholars, researchers, students Business/industry professionals
Review Staff editor Editorial board made up of other scholars and researchers. Some articles are peer-reviewed Staff editor
Citations May not have citations, or may be informal (ex. according to… or links) Bibliographies, references, endnotes, footnotes Few, may or may not have any
Frequency Weekly/monthly Quarterly or semi-annually Weekly/monthly
Ads Numerous ads for a variety of products Minimal, usually only for scholarly products like books Ads are for products geared toward specific industry
Examples on Publisher Site TimeVogueRolling StoneNew Yorker Journal of Southern HistoryDevelopmental PsychologyAmerican LiteratureNew England Journal of Medicine Pharmacy TimesOil and Gas Investor Magazine



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