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Information Literacy for TESU Students

Information Literacy for TESU Students

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Journals vs. Trade Journals

Instructors typically require references to articles from academic journals that support your argument/thesis/hypothesis.

What is an academic journal and what makes it different from a trade journal or a popular magazine?  In this section, we'll take a look at each type of publication, and the features that make each unique.

Scholarly or Academic Publications


Three examples of scholarly publications

Scholarly publications

  • Present original research in a specific field
  • Target audience is typically professionals, academics, and students
  • Limited or no paid advertising
  • Sparsely illustrated; when illustrations are used, they exist only to support the research presented
  • Articles and research are peer-reviewed (reviewed and evaluated by other professionals working in the field prior to publication)
  • Articles usually have an abstract and list of works cited
  • Authors are not paid to publish

Popular Publications


Three examples of popular publications

Popular Publications (Magazines)

  • Articles about a variety of topics and subjects
  • Casual, conversational tone for a wide audience
  • Never list references
  • Widely available at newsstands and bookstores
  • Accept advertising
  • Visual presentation is key, with many photographs and illustrations
  • Writers are paid

Trade Publications


Three examples of trade publications

Trade publications

  • Contain trade-related news, including innovations in industry and profiles of leading and new businesses
  • Target audience is people in business or industry.
  • Many colorful photographs and illustrations
  • Typically include advertisements
  • Articles rarely list references
  • Articles often contain industry-specific language or jargon.
  • Writers are paid.

Some Useful Definitions

From the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science


A periodical devoted to disseminating original research and commentary on current developments in a specific discipline, subdiscipline, or field of study (Journal of Clinical Epidemiology), usually published in quarterly, bimonthly, or monthly issues sold by subscription (click here to see an example). Journal articles are usually written by the person (or persons) who conducted the research. Longer than most magazine articles, they almost always include a bibliography or list of works cited at the end. In journals in the sciences and social sciences, an abstract usually precedes the text of the article, summarizing its content. Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. Scholars often use a current contents service to keep abreast of the journal literature in their fields of interest and specialization.

Peer Review

Said of a scholarly journal that requires an article to be subjected to a process of critical evaluation by one or more experts on the subject, known as referees, responsible for determining if the subject of the article falls within the scope of the publication and for evaluating originality, quality of research, clarity of presentation, etc. Changes may be suggested to the author(s) before an article is finally accepted for publication. In evaluation for tenure and promotion, academic librarians may be given publishing credit only for articles accepted by peer-reviewed journals. Some bibliographic databases allow search results to be limited to peer-reviewed journals. Synonymous with juried and refereed.