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Scholarly/Peer Reviewed vs. Trade vs. Popular Resources

This guide explains the difference between Scholarly/Peer Reviewed, Trade, and Popular resources

Scholarly Journals vs. Trade Publications vs. Popular Magazines

The following table is intended to give you an idea of the different categories of published work. Remember: your instructor is the final authority on what is “scholarly” enough for your assignment!  


Scholarly Journals

Trade Publications

Popular Magazines


Plain cover and paper.

Primarily print, with few pictures.

Tables, graphs and diagrams are often included.

If there are ads, they are for books or conferences. 

Cover often depicts industrial setting.

Pictures and illustrations in color.

Colorful ads for trade-related products.

Eye-catching cover and glossy paper.

Picturs and illustrations in color.

colorful ads for commerical products (trucks, cosmetics, etc.)


Scholars, researchers practitioners. Members of a specific business, industry or organization. General public. 


Experts in field (i.e., researchers, faculty members).

Credentials are given. 

Experts, practitioners in the field.

Authors usually named.

Magazine staff members, journalists, freelance writers.

Articles may be unsigned.


Research projects, methodology, literary criticism and theory. Industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news. News, personalities and general interest stories.


None or few. Many, but specific to interest of trade publication. Many ads for a variety of consumer goods. Up to 75% of publication can be ads.


University or academic press, or commercial publishers who specialize in scholarly works. Association or trade group. Commercial publisher who may publish a variety of titles.

Peer Reviewed 

Yes. No, but corrections and rebuttals may be printed in "letter to the editor." No, but corrections and rebuttals may be printed in "letters to the editor."

Writing Style and Language

Uses terminology, jargon and language of the specific discipline covered.

Assumes reader has some knowledge of the subject area.

Uses terminology and language of trade or industry covered.

Uses easy to read, simple language.

Aimed at the layperson.

References or Bibliography 

Articles contain bibliography, references, notes and/or list of works cited. Articles may have short bibliographies. Articles rarely include references.

Indexed in:

Journals are indexed in specialized, discipline-specific indexes or databases, like ERIC (for education) or AGRICOLA (for agriculture).  Trade publications are indexed in discipline-specific databases such as ABI Inform, Business Source Premier. Popular articles are listed in general indexes, such as the Reader's Guide or Academic Search Complete.


Journal of Food Science

Equine Veterinary Journal


Computer Journal

Food and Nutrition Bulletin

Equine Athlete

Grower Talks

Computer Weekly

Rolling Stone

The Trail Rider

Fine Gardening

Game Hacks