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Types of Periodicals: Scholarly vs. Trade vs. Popular Periodicals

This guide offers an introduction to the three main types of periodicals--scholarly, trade, and popular--and ways to distinguish among them.

What is a Periodical?



A periodical is a publication that comes out periodically, such as a magazine, journal, or newspaper


Three Types of Periodicals 


Scholarly Periodical 


  • Usually called scholarly journal. 
  • Articles typically written for scholars by scholars of same discipline. 
  • Can be peer-reviewed. 


Trade Periodical 


  • Articles written for practitioners of a field by practitioners in that same field.


Popular Periodical 


  • Magazines or newspapers are common examples. 
  • Articles written by professional writers and targeted at a popular or general audience. 
  • Can have subject focus or be more general news or entertainment magazine.

The Types of Periodicals Explained

Keep in mind that a scholarly journal is aimed at an audience of scholars who study a particular field.  Many scholarly journals are also peer-reviewed, but not all. 


Common Characteristics of Scholarly Periodicals 


  • Articles are written by authors identified as scholars, often professors at colleges, universities, or medical institutions. 


  • Articles are well-documented with footnotes, endnotes, and/or in-text citations, and a bibliography, works cited list, or list of references. Articles follow a standard citation style accepted by the field, such as MLA for the humanities or APA for the social sciences.  


  • Audience is scholars in the field who are familiar with the specialized language, often considered jargon, used in a scholarly discipline. 


  • Title often includes the words review, quarterly, studies, or journal:  The Sociological Review, Shakespeare QuarterlyStudies in the Natural Sciences, and American Journal of Nursing are all scholarly journals. 


  • Few advertisements; those it contains are often for books or other journals potentially of interest to the scholars who read the journal. 


  • Can be peer-reviewed.
    • A peer-reviewed scholarly journal is a journal in which all of the articles have been peer-reviewed or "refereed" by other experts on the subject to verify the reliability of the research the author presents. 


A trade periodical, often a magazine or newsletter, is a publication aimed at practitioners in a certain trade or profession that contains articles about trends, news, and practices in the field. 


Common Characteristics of Trade Periodicals


  • Authors are usually staff members at the publication or other professional writers, often freelancers. 


  • Articles might have short reference lists, but there are often no footnotes or in-text citations within articles. 


  • The audience is people who follow or work in a certain trade, industry, or profession, or who belong to an organization.


  • Language of articles often contains the terminology of the field. 


  • Advertisements are often glossy and in color and feature industry equipment and information. 


  • A trade periodical has its own editorial staff, and articles are usually not peer-reviewed. 

Some examples of trade periodical titles are American LibrariesSocial Work PracticeProfessional Nurse, and Farming Magazine. 

A popular periodical, usually a magazine or newspaper, appeals to a popular rather than a scholarly or professional audience. 


Common Characteristics of Popular Periodicals


  • Articles are written by professional writers, often freelancers, and in many cases no author is named for an article. 


  • Articles seldom have reference lists, foot- or endnotes, or in-text citations. 


  • The audience is the general public or an audience interested but not considered expert in a subject.


  • Writing is generally easy to read and jargon-free.


  • The title is usually descriptive of the content of the magazine, or it might be catchy. 


  • Filled with advertisements, often glossy, for a wide range of products that might appeal to the readers.


  • Articles are not peer-reviewed. It is edited by professional staff at the publication.


Some examples include Newsweek, Better Homes and GardensEbony, and Rolling Stone