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Communication Research Strategies

How to distinguish between types of journal articles

When writing a paper or conducting academic research, you’ll come across many different types of sources, including periodical articles. Periodical articles can be comprised of news accounts, opinion, commentary, scholarly analysis, and/or reports of research findings. There are three main types of periodicals that you will encounter: scholarly/academic, trade, and popular.  The chart below will help you identify which type of periodical your article comes from.



Scholarly journals

Trade journals

Popular magazines



Professionals; scholars; students; specialists in the subject area

Practitioners in a particular trade, profession, or industry

General public without any technical expertise

General public without any technical expertise


Includes the vocabulary of a specific discipline

Specialized vocabulary of a trade or profession

Easy to read, popular language

Easy to read, journalistic language


In-depth analysis; reports of original research; discussions of new developments in a discipline

News, trends, and issues in a profession or industry; product information

Current events; feature stories, reviews, or editorials; opinion pieces; entertainment and/or sports news

Current events; feature stories, reviews, or editorials; opinion pieces; some entertainment and/or sports news


Scholars or researchers in a specific discipline (look for authors’ degree and institutional affiliation)

Staff writers; professionals in the field or industry

Staff or freelance writers (the authors aren’t always named)

Journalists (sometimes published in one news source and then picked up and republished in another source


Articles contain footnotes or endnotes; works cited or bibliographies are included

Includes some references or footnotes

Contain few, if any, references or footnotes

Contain few, if any, references or footnotes


Mostly text with some charts and graphs; few advertisements; usually printed on non-glossy paper

Contains advertisements relating to the trade; articles with photos and other visual items

Highly visual; many advertisements; usually printed on glossy paper

Plain black and white text; many advertisements; sometimes printed on glossy paper


New England Journal of Medicine; Modern Fiction Studies; American Sociological Review

Billboard; Aviation Week & Space Technology; Advertising Age

Time; Business Week; Harper’s; Rolling Stone; Newsweek; Sports Illustrated

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Houston Star-Chronicle, The Seattle Times

Text and chart adapted from the WSU University Libraries' How to Distinguish between types of Periodicals guide

Wichita State University Libraries, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67260-0068 | Phone: (316) 978-3481 | Comments/Suggestions | Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube Channel Federal Depository Library Program HathiTrust Digital Library Patent and Trademark Resources Centers