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Scholarly vs Popular Sources: Scholarly vs Popular Periodicals

Scholarly vs Popular

There are three types of publications that may appear in the search results of many social and behavioral sciences databases. These are:

  • Scholarly sources -- intended for use in support of conducting in-depth research, often containing specialized vocabulary and extensive references to sources. The content has been reviewed by academic peers to ensure the reliability of methods used and the validity of findings. Scholarly sources help answer the "So What?" question in academic writing and lay the foundation for discovering connections between variables, issues, or events.
  • Popular sources -- intended for a general audience of readers, they are written typically to entertain, inform, or persuade. Popular sources help you answer who, what, when, and where questions and are essential for finding information about current events or issues. Popular sources range from research-oriented [but lacking complete citations to sources] to special interest, agenda-driven publications.
  • Trade publications -- intended to share general news, trends, and opinions among practitioners in a certain industry or profession. Although generally written by experts, they are not considered scholarly because they are not peer-reviewed and do not focus on advancing new knowledge discovery or reporting research results. Trade journals, however, are an essential source of information in the field of business and specialized industries [e.g., tourism, environmental studies, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.].

Adapted from text originally created by Holly Burt, Behavioral Sciences Librarian, USC Libraries, April 2018. 

Scholarly, Trade, & Popular Articles

University of West Florida, John C. Pace Library (4:53)

Scholar vs Popular

Scholarly journals publish original research in the sciences and social sciences, and essays, criticism, and reviews in the humanities.  They are subject specific in focus, are written for the use of scholars, and are seldom sold by the issue on newsstands.

  • audiencescholars, researchers, students, professors and instructors
  • authorshipauthors are experts or researchers in the specific field addressed; author names are noted, often with an indication as to their credentials
  • documentationarticles contain extensive documentation including notes and bibliographies
  • review processarticles are refereed or peer reviewed by an outside body of experts in the specific field covered
  • appearancescholarly journals are seldom printed on slick or glossy paper and are plain and conservative in appearance; they contain few, if any, pictures or photographs, though graphs and diagrams are used often
  • advertisements: there is little or no advertising
  • publishersusually, though not always, published by professional organizations or academic institutions
  • frequencyusually quarterly, semi-annually, or even annually
  • examplesJournal of Applied PsychologyPolitical Science QuarterlyModern Fiction Studies

"Periodical types" Calhoun Community College, last updated September 5, 2019 http://lib.calhoun.edu/lib/periodical_types.html

Popular/General Interest Magazines
The term magazine is usually applied to popular or consumer type publications that are generally for sale on newsstands.  

  • audiencepresentation style is aimed at general public
  • authorshipusually written by journalists or staff writers; the author's name may or may not be noted
  • documentation: there is usually no documentation of sources such as notes, footnotes, or bibliographies
  • review process: articles printed in magazines are reviewed only by the editorial staff of the publication itself and not by any outside body
  • appearancemagazines are usually printed on slick, glossy paper and contain both black & white and color pictures and photographs
  • advertisements:numerous advertisements are included
  • publisherscommercial publishers
  • frequencyusually weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly
  • examplesTimeNewsweekSports IllustratedNational Geographic

"Periodical types" Calhoun Community College, last updated September 5, 2019 http://lib.calhoun.edu/lib/periodical_types.html

Industry/Trade Journals
Industry or trade journals contain articles concerning a specific industry.  These publications are usually sold only by subscription, though some can be found for sale on the newsstand.

  • audienceintended to inform those involved in a specific industry or trade
  • authorshipwritten by journalists, staff writers, or others in the field being addressed; the author's name may or may not be noted
  • documentationgenerally no documentation of sources such as notes, footnotes, or bibliographies
  • review processarticles are usually only reviewed in-house and not by any outside body
  • appearancetrade magazines are usually printed on slick, glossy paper and contain both black & white and color pictures and photographs
  • advertisementsnumerous advertisements are included
  • publishersmost are published by associations, though some are published by commercial publishers
  • frequencyusually weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly
  • examplesAdvertising AgePublishers' WeeklyAmerican TeacherAmerican Libraries

"Periodical types" Calhoun Community College, last updated September 5, 2019 http://lib.calhoun.edu/lib/periodical_types.html

The term tabloid is usually applied to gossip, sensational headlines and photographs. These publications are generally for sale on newsstands.  

  • audiencepresentation style is aimed at general public
  • authorshipusually written by staff writers; the author's name may or may not be noted
  • documentation: there is usually no documentation of sources such as notes, footnotes, or bibliographies
  • review process: articles printed in magazines are reviewed only by the editorial staff of the publication itself and not by any outside body
  • appearancemagazines are usually printed on slick, glossy paper and contain both black & white and color pictures and photographs. They may be smaller than a typical magazine
  • advertisements:numerous advertisements are included
  • publisherscommercial publishers
  • frequencyusually weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly
  • examples: New York Daily NewsNational Enquirer, Weekly World News, Woman's World

Modeled after "Periodical types" Calhoun Community College, last updated September 5, 2019 http://lib.calhoun.edu/lib/periodical_types.html

Scholarly, Popular, & Trade Article Examples

Criteria Scholarly Journal Trade Magazine Popular Magazine
Sample Cover Cover of Sensors Feb 2019 Issue 4 Cover of Computers in Libraries Sept 2019 issue Cover of the Dec 2018 issue of Scientific American
Sample Article

Positioning, Navigation, and Book Accessing/Returning in an Autonomous Library Robot using Integrated Binocular Vision and QR Code Identification Systems

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How to Bring AI into Your Library

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Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2018

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Audience Academics and professionals People in the business General public
Authors Experts or specialists. Unpaid. Staff writers, industry specialists, or vendor representatives. Paid. Journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers. Paid.
Editorial Review Journal editorial board and peer reviewers. Unpaid. Professional Editors. Paid. Professional Editors. Paid.
References / Works Cited Almost always Sometimes Rarely

Modeled after NCSU Libraries "Scholarly & Popular Materials" tutorial.