Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, Popular, or Trade Journals

The points listed below will give you some guidance as to whether an article is from a popular magazine or scholarly journal. Note that magazines, journals and newspapers are all a type of “periodical” (i.e. they are published at regular intervals such as weekly, monthly, etc.)

Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, Popular, or Trade Journals
Scholarly Journals
  • Plain covers
  • Often include tables, graphs and charts not glossy photographs
  • Little or no advertisements
  • Articles are written by experts in the field
  • Usually published by a University, Institution, Association or Society
  • Authors are often affiliated with universities or research/government bodies
  • Most articles include an extensive reference list (bibliography/footnotes)
  • Highly technical language requires reader understand the vocabulary
  • Purpose is to communicate research information to scholars/researchers
  • Most articles are peer-reviewed (i.e. subject experts assess articles before they are published in the journal)
    (note that some databases let you refine your search to Peer-Reviewed articles only)
  • Some examples include: Criminal Justice and Behavior: An International Journal; Academic Medicine; Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal

As per ProQuest, Scholary Journals can be defined as:
A scholarly journal is a publication that is authored by academics for a target audience that is mainly academic. The scholarly journal printed format isn't usually a glossy magazine, and it is published by a recognized society with academic goals and missions. The ProQuest criteria states the publication must be academic in focus with the intent to report on or support research needs as well as advance one's knowledge on a topic or theory. The publication will be targeted for professional or academic researchers and have in-depth analysis typically focusing on one discipline or academic field. The publication will likely be peer reviewed or refereed by external reviewers. The publisher should be a professional association or an academic press.

Peer Reviewed?

As per ProQuest, a peer reviewed journal can be defined as:
A publication in which articles go through an official editorial process that involves review and approval by the author's peers (people who are experts in the same subject area). Most (but not all) scholarly publications are peer reviewed. Some trade publications are peer reviewed.

For more information on peer reviews (blind, open, etc.) visit the following sites:

Popular Magazines
  • Colourful, eye-catching covers
  • Lots of photographs and advertisements
  • Articles written by professional writers, not experts in the field
  • Usually published by a commercial publisher or business
  • Articles rarely have bibliographies or footnotes
  • Little specialized vocabulary is needed to understand the articles
  • Purpose is to entertain & inform the general public
  • Some examples include: Sport’s Illustrated; Consumer Reports; Newsweek

Trade Magazines

  • May have glossy covers
  • Often include photographs and advertisements aimed at the specific industry
  • Articles are written by people with knowledge of the industry
  • Authors are often affiliated with a particular company or industry association
  • Usually published by a trade or professional group
  • Articles sometimes include bibliographies or footnotes
  • Some specialized industry knowledge may be needed to understand the articles
  • Purpose is communication amongst people in the industry
  • Some examples include: Advanced Rescue Technology; Firehouse; The Police Marksman
  • Some may be peer reviewed

Last updated September 15, 2016