Brandel Library

COMM 3100: Foundations of Media Industries

Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?

Scholarly, Popular, or Trade

An important part of gathering and evaluating sources for research projects is knowing the difference between popular, scholarly, and trade publications. ​

  • Popular magazine articles are typically written by journalists to entertain or inform a general audience,
  • Scholarly articles are written by researchers or experts in a particular field. They use specialized vocabulary, have extensive citations, and are often peer-reviewed.
  • Trade publications may be written by experts in a certain industry, but they are not considered scholarly, as they share general news, trends, and opinions, rather than advanced research, and are not peer-reviewed.
  Popular Magazines Scholarly (including peer-reviewed) Trade Publications
Content

Current events; general interest articles

Research results/reports; reviews of research (review articles); theoretical discussions

Articles about a certain business or industry
Purpose To inform, entertain, or elicit an emotional response To share research or scholarship with the academic community To inform about business or industry news, trends, or products 
Author Staff writers, journalists, freelancers Scholars/researchers Staff writers, business/industry professionals
Audience General public Scholars, researchers, students Business/industry professionals
Review Staff editor Editorial board made up of other scholars and researchers. Some articles are peer-reviewed Staff editor
Citations May not have citations, or may be informal (ex. according to... or links) Bibliographies, references, endnotes, footnotes Few, may or may not have any
Frequency Weekly/monthly Quarterly or semi-annually Weekly/monthly
Ads* Numerous ads for a variety of products Minimal, usually only for scholarly products like books Ads are for products geared toward specific industry
Examples Time; Vogue; Rolling Stone; New Yorker Journal of Southern History; Developmental Psychology; American Literature; New England journal of Medicine Pharmacy Times; Oil and Gas Investor Magazine; Designer Magazine

*Ads may not be visible when viewing articles through a library database

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In-Class Activity

Identify whether each of these articles is a popular, scholarly, or trade publication: