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Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals

Journals and magazines are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines. For research papers, you will be required to use scholarly sources. Therefore, it is very important to be able to distinguish scholarly writing from other types of writing.

The following criteria will help you distinguish between these following types of periodical publications: scholarly journals, general interest magazines, popular magazines, trade journals and magazines, and sensational news.

Scholarly   |   General Interest   |   Popular   |   Trade   |   Sensational


Scholarly Journals

  • Have a serious look with charts and graphs but few glossy pictures
  • Have articles that are written by a scholar in the field, discipline or specialty
  • Report on original research or experimentation
  • Have articles that use the terminology and language of the covered subject
  • Have articles that are footnoted and/or have a bibliography
  • Generally published by a professional organization or a scholarly press
  • Contain selective advertising

Some examples of scholarly journals include: Canadian Journal of Political Science, Shakespeare Quarterly, French Historical Studies, Modern Age

General Interest Magazines

  • Attractive in appearance and heavily illustrated with photographs
  • Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience
  • Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or free-lance writer
  • Language of articles geared to an educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
  • Sources are sometimes cited but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography
  • Contains some advertising and published for profit

Examples of general interest magazines include: Newsweek, Maclean's, National Geographic, Psychology Today, Popular Science

Popular Magazines

  • Are slick and glossy with an attractive format
  • Contain photographs and illustrations to enhance their image
  • Rarely provide footnotes and/or a bibliography at the end of the article
  • Have articles that are written by a staff or free-lance writer
  • Have short articles, written in simple language, with little depth
  • The purpose is to entertain and inform the general public
  • Published by commercial enterprises, for profit
  • Contain extensive advertising

Some examples of popular magazines include: Ladies Home Journal, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, People

Trade Publications

  • Articles written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
  • Provide news, product information, advertising and trade articles to people in a particular industry or profession
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Similar in nature to popular magazines in the use of graphics and photographs
  • Published through a professional association

Some examples of trade publications include: MacWorld, Industry World, Byte

Sensational Periodicals

  • Come in variety of styles but often use a newspaper format
  • Contain melodramatic photographs
  • Rarely cite sources of information
  • Articles written by free-lance writers for an impressionable audience
  • Purpose is to arouse curiosity and interest of the general public
  • Language is elementary and occasionally inflammatory or sensational
  • Contains advertising as startling and melodramatic as the stories

Some examples of sensational periodicals include: National Enquirer, Star, Globe

Last Updated: 28 May 2013