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Popular, Scholarly, and Trade Publication Sources: Home

This guide will help you identify the characteristics of popular, scholarly, and trade publications.


Your professor may ask you to locate a particular type of article for an assignment. He or she may ask you to find:

  • a scholarly (peer-reviewed) article
  • an article from a popular magazine/newspaper 
  • an article from a trade publication

Here are some easy ways to identify the different types of articles found in Library Databases.

Characteristics of Popular, Scholarly and Trade Publication Sources

Popular Magazine/ Newspaper

Scholarly Journal

Trade Publication


Inform or entertain.

To advance knowledge within a specific field of study, usually by reporting results of research.

Report news, trends or information of interest in a specific industry or occupation.


Journalist, staff writer, free-lance writer.

Academic or researcher. Expert in their field. Author usually lists their degree or certifications after their name (like Ph.D., MBA,  CPA, etc.) and their work affiliations (like University of South Alabama, Brookings Institute, etc.). 

Industry expert, journalist or staff writer who focuses on that field.


General public.

Scholarly readers- professors, students, academics or researchers in the field.

People in the same industry or occupation.


Basic, non-specialized. Easy for most of the general public to understand. Defines terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar.

Written at a much higher-level. Includes specialized language or acronyms used in the field. Does not define terms that people in the field are expected to understand.

Language is usually easier to understand, but may use some language or acronyms specific to that field.

Sources of information

May quote sources, but typically doesn’t include a bibliography or reference list.

Usually extensive bibliography, list of references, endnotes, footnotes, etc.  

May quote sources, but typically doesn’t include a bibliography or reference list.

Review Process prior to Publication

Usually an editor.

Most often includes a peer-review process to make sure that the research and concepts presented in the article conform to the highest research standards in their field. May offer suggestions to authors on how to improve the research.

Usually an editor.

Time to publish an article

Writing and editing may take anywhere from hours, to days, to a few weeks.

Research, writing and peer-review process usually takes months to years. Can be several years until it is finally published.

Writing and editing may take anywhere from hours, to days to a few weeks.

Publication schedule for the magazine or journal

Daily, weekly, monthly.

Typically, monthly, quarterly or semi-annually.

Daily, weekly, monthly.

Special features

May include pictures or an occasional graphic.

May include lots of charts, graphs, data. Usually no pictures.

May include pictures or charts.


Usually includes lots of advertisements (note: in library databases, these may not appear).

Usually no advertisements except maybe for books in the field.

Usually includes advertisements for products that would interest people in that field, but not typically the general population. (Note: Advertisements may not appear in Library Databases).


Time; U.S. News & World Report; BusinessWeek; Fortune; Forbes; The Economist; Entrepreneur; Wall Street Journal, etc.

Academy of Management Review; Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance; Journal of Business Ethics, etc.

Accounting Today; HR Professional; Franchise Times; WWD- Women’s Wear Daily; Nation’s Restaurant News, Beverage Industry, etc.

Tips for locating sources in Library Databases

Some databases allow the user to narrow down the results of a search to articles from Popular Magazines/Newspapers, Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals, or Trade Publications.

In Business Source Complete, after you run a search, you can check a box to limit to just the Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals or you can choose the Source Type (Trade Publications, Academic Journals, Magazines).

Just be sure that the article still meets the criteria in the chart to the left. Occasionally, a letter to the editor or an article that doesn't meet the criteria may appear in a scholarly journal.

Need Help?

Need help determining if the article you found is popular, scholarly or trade?


MCOB Business Library

Room 240, Mitchell Learning Resource Center