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Popular, Scholarly, and Trade Publications

Tip sheet for determining the difference between publication types.



The Difference Between Articles

Popular articles have their place in research and are particularly useful when writing about a newer or recent topic that has not yet been published heavily in scholarly literature.

Scholarly articles, also called peer reviewed articles, go through an extensive cycle of review and editing prior to being published. There may often be a delay between the timeliness of a topic in the popular media and the subsequent appearance of that topic in the writings of scholarly disciplines. Editors and reviewers of these articles and journals are usually faculty members at colleges and universities well versed in a given discipline. 

Trade publications are targeted at a particular industry. Article content is usually recent news, developments, or reports in a given area written using industry jargon. Articles might be comparable in length to popular articles rather than having the depth of scholarly articles.

Comparison Chart

Not all articles are created equal. You will, at times, hear your professors request scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles in your research. Being aware of these differences will help you direct the best sources for your research.




audience general audience scholars in a particular discipline professionals in a particular fields
authors usually general staff writers scholars in the field with degrees, credentials, and affiliations staff writers or others in the field, most familiar with the areas at hand

sources or bibliography

usually none extensively cited may refer to reports or other sources in the text of an article or have short lists of citations
articles vary in length and subject tend to be lengthy, broken in sections, summarizing research varying in length, related to a single area or discipline, often news and reports
language simple and non-technical uses terms and concepts specific to a particular discipline mix of jargon and technical terminology of a given field
use current events and general trends summarizes in depth research of a particular discipline current news and trends in a given field or discipline
illustrations eye-catching to enhance article content and appeal charts, tables, graphs or still images directly related to research charts, tables, graphs or still images related to article content
frequency weekly or monthly quarterly, semi-annual, or three times per year weekly or monthly

Finding Scholarly Articles

Many library resources allow you to limit your search results to scholarly articles. Look on the left side of the results screen for your options to limit or filter your search.

SingleSearch, ProQuest, and EBSCO databases tend to use variants the phrase "Peer Review" or "Peer Reviewed" to indicate options for accessing scholarly article content. 

Popular Magazine Databases

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