Popular, Trade, and Scholarly Publications

last modified 2018-08-27T11:35:36-04:00

The Main Differences

Scholarly, trade, and popular periodicals are publications that release new issues on a regular basis under the same title. This includes magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. Each individual issue includes articles – which are often great resources for your research!

“Popular” periodicals are intended for the general public, usually for entertainment. Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated are popular periodicals – but so are Newsweek, Time, and National Geographic!

"Trade" periodicals are intended for a professional audience, helping them stay abreast of current trends and news in the field. Examples include the APA Monitor, Public Management, and PE Magazine.

"Scholarly" periodicals (aka "academic" and "peer-reviewed") contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these periodicals, often called journals, are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

Why You Should Care

There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these publications - the important point is to know when you should use them:

Popular articles are useful if you are writing about a particularly recent event, if you need some background on a topic, or if you need sources that relate the opinions of the general public. However, since the author of the article is often unknown, these articles are not generally considered authoritative and should be used only rarely in formal research papers.

Trade articles are useful when you're looking at recent trends in a particular industry, or for a less technical explanation of scholarly research. The authors of these articles are generally fairly authoritative, but the methods used for obtaining information are less rigorous than those for scholarly articles. Therefore these articles should be used less frequently in research papers. 

Scholarly articles are useful when you need in-depth information or research for a given topic. Because these articles are how researchers and professors add to the body of knowledge in different subjects, they will likely become your main resource for research while in college. As a student, these sources may seem a bit daunting, since they are often difficult to read if you are unfamiliar with the subject. Persevere, and feel free to ask a librarian or your professor for help if needed!

The table below will help you determine if a particular article is popular, trade, or scholarly. Bear in mind that not all publications of each type meet the following criteria exactly. If you are still unsure, you may want to ask the reference librarian for assistance. 






Glamour Vogue



Article Author

Written by a journalist or a freelance writer.

Magazine staff and contributing authors. 

Written by an expert or researcher in the field.

Review Process

Reviewed by the magazine editor.

Reviewed by the magazine editor.

Reviewed by a panel of experts in the field.


The author's credentials may or may not be included.

Contributing author's credentials may be included, but not always.

The author's credentials and institutional affiliation are included.


The general public or non-professionals.

Members of a specific business, organization, or industry.

Primarily researchers and professionals in a given field. 


Gives a general overview on a variety of topics that are meant to entertain.

It is very rare to see a bibliography in this type of publication.

Current trends, products, and techniques in the industry, as well as organizational news

Bibliographies may be included, but are generally short. 

Gives an in depth analysis on a specific subject, including an abstract, literature review, methods section, results, a conclusion, and a bibliography.


Lots of colorful advertising.  In fact, the entire publication is colorful.

Moderate colorful advertisements, all pertaining to the industry and professional needs. 

Very limited advertising.  Not a very colorful publication.  Mostly black and white.

Pagination Each issue numbers pages starting from page 1. Each issue numbers pages starting from page 1. Pagination within a volume is continuous through all issues.