Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about journals/magazines, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade publications.

Scholarly Journals


  • Authors are authorities in their fields.
  • Articles are written for other researchers or for serious students of the subject.
  • Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies. 
  • Individual issues have little or no advertising. 
  • Articles must go through a peer-review or refereed process (review by two or more experts before being approved for publication). 
  • Articles are usually reports of scholarly research. 
  • Illustrations usually take the form of charts and graphs. 
  • Articles use formal language or the jargon of the discipline. 

Trade Publications


  • Authors are specialists in a certain field or industry.
  • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies.
  • Intended audience includes people in the industry or people seeking employment in the industry.
  • There is no peer review process.
  • Articles give practical information and news updates to people in an industry.
  • Some illustrations are included, usually charts, graphs, etc.
  • Authors use jargon of the industry.

Popular Magazines and NewSpapers


  • Authors are magazine staff members or freelance writers. 
  • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies. 
  • Individual issues contain numerous advertisements. 
  • There is no peer review process. 
  • Articles are meant to inform and entertain. 
  • Illustrations may be numerous and colorful. 
  • Language is geared to the general adult audience (no specialized knowledge of jargon needed).

Examples of the four major categories of periodicals:

Scholarly Journals Trade Publications Popular Magazines Newspapers
Current Psychology Research 
and Reviews
Information Today Psychology Today New York Times
Geographical Perspectives Aviation Week and 
Space Technology
Discover USA Today 

Adapted with permission from University Library. California State University Northridge. Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, and Trade Publications.