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Scholarly Journals vs Trade Journals vs Popular Magazines

It can sometimes be difficult to determine if you are reading an article from a peer-reviewed journal. The following are general criteria used to distinguish between popular magazines, trade journals and scholarly journals.

Criteria Scholarly Journals Trade Journals Popular Magazines
Appearance Print:
  • plain cover
  • plain paper
  • black / white graphics and illustrations
  • pages are usually consecutive throughout the volume
  • glossy paper
  • pictures and illustrations in colour
  • each issue starts with page 1
  • eye-catching cover
  • glossy paper
  • pictures and illustrations in colour
  • each issue starts with page 1

Researchers, professionals and academics Members of a specific business, industry or organization General Public
  • Experts in the field such as professors
  • Authors named and institutional affiliations given
  • Articles written by staff members, contributing authors or freelance writers
  • Authors usually named
  • Articles written by staff members, journalists, and freelance writers
  • Authors may be anonymous
References or Biblio-graphies Bibliographies are always present May include short bibliographies Rarely include bibliographies
Editors Editorial board of outside scholars (known as peer review) Editors work for publisher Editors work for publisher
Publishers Often a scholarly or professional organization or a university press Often a trade organization Commercial, for profit
  • Original research, in depth studies, literary criticism, and theory.
  • Articles usually contain abstracts
Industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news Personalities, news of current events, and general interest articles
Writing Style and Language Uses discipline specific terminology that is sophisticated and technical.
Uses terminology and language of trade or industry covered
  • Easy to read, simple language used.
  • Aimed at the layperson.
Advertise-ments (Print Version) Few or none
(usually for book or conference)
(all or most are trade related)
(for consumer products)

Journal of Computer and System Sciences

English Studies

Industry week

Chemical and Engineering News


Computer Gaming World

What is a Peer Reviewed Journal?

"Peer reviewed" (or "refereed") statement refers to the policy of having experts in the field examine a submitted article before accepting it for publication. The peer review (or referee) process insures that the research described in a journal's articles is sound and of high quality. Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory.

Tools for Identifying Peer Reviewed Journals:

Check the journal title in the Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, for example: English Studies, for Peer Reviewed status.

(Portions of the content of this page were adapted from Colorado State University Libraries and Odum Library, Valdosta State University.)

Helen Yueping He and Laura Briggs, University of Waterloo Library

We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: July 11, 2011