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Research & Citation Tools

Popular, Scholarly, or Trade

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

  • Popular Publications are typically written by journalists, freelance writers, and staff writers to entertain, inform, or elicit an emotional response from a general audience.
  • Scholarly Publications 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 industry experts in a certain industry, but they are not usually considered scholarly, as they share general news, trends, and opinions, rather than advanced research, and are not usually peer-reviewed.

The physical appearance of print sources can also help you identify the type of source. Popular publications and trade publications are usually glossy with many photos. Scholarly journals are usually smaller and thicker with plain covers and images, In electronic sources, you can check for bibliographies and author credentials or affiliations as potential indicators of scholarly sources.

  Popular Publications Scholarly (including peer-reviewed) Trade Publications

Current events; general interest articles

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

Articles about a certain business or industry
Purpose To inform the public about events and interests, entertain, sell ads, 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 on Publisher Site Wall Street JournalVogueNew Yorker American Economic Review; Applied and Environmental Soil Science; BMJ: British Medical Journal; Modern Fictional Studies Medical Marketing and MediaLitigation
Examples in Library Databases Wall Street Journal; Vogue; New Yorker American Economic Review; Applied and Environmental Soil Science; BMJ: British Medical Journal; Modern Fictional Studies Medical Marketing and Media; Litigation


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License from the University of Texas Libraries: Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?. This section was altered to fit the offerings of Moye Library, University of Mount Olive.

Sensational and Tabloid Publications

Sensational periodicals come in a variety of styles, but most often use a small newspaper format. "Tabloid" newspapers have been a staple in the U.S. since the 19th century.

Sensational and tabloid publications use elementary, inflammatory language meant to arouse curiosity, cater to popular superstitions, increase sales, and promote the publisher's political agenda. They often do so with flashy headlines designed to astonish (e.g., Half-man Half-woman Makes Self Pregnant) or by falsely reporting on domestic and international events. The recent spate of fake news reporting is a recent, online version of this type of publication.