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Navigating the Information-Scape

Scholarly Journals, Trade Publications, and General Interest Magazines

Scholarly journals, trade publications and general interest magazines are important sources of information.  As a student, the thesis or focus statement of your research determines the suitability of which type of source you should use.

The quality of these publications varies considerably and determining the quality of information in them is easier when you can clarify the level of scholarship and the general purpose.  This chart will help you evaluate the different types of publications.  Some publications may overlap across these categories.



Scholarly Journals

Trade/Professional Publications

General Interest Magazines


To inform, report, or make available original research or experimentation to the rest of the scholarly world. These publications give practical information to people in an industry as well as showcase leaders in the field. They provide information to a general, educated audience on a range of topics.

Why use them?

Often your professor will require you to use these sources.  Using this type of information lends credibility to your own ideas and hypotheses. These publications can be useful when doing an analysis of a particular industry.  Additionally, they can help you when applying for a job or preparing for an interview. Good for identifying potential topics for a research project as well as identifying current or hot issues.


Written by and for scholars or researchers in a specific subject area or discipline. Specialists or practitioners in a particular field or industry. Magazine's staff, an expert or scholar, or a freelance writer.


Always cited as footnotes, endnotes or reference lists (bibliographies) at the end of an article. Sources are often mentioned within an article but rarely are cited at the end of an article. Occasionally cite sources, but this is the exception.


Uses terminology, jargon and language of the discipline.  Reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background. Uses jargon specific to a particular field or industry, but writing is for educated professionals. Uses language appropriate for an educated readership but doesn't emphasize any discipline's specific jargon.

Review process

Articles must go through a strict review process by peers within the discipline. Minimal review by editorial staff and rarely by peers. Minimal review by editorial staff.


Contains graphs, charts, and photographs specific to the research but seldom graphic art. Illustrations are usually charts, graphs and photographs relevant to the article, some graphic art. Photographs, illustrations and graphs are used to enhance the overall publication.


Most often published by a professional organization or specialty publishing company. Often published by professional organizations relevant to a particular field or industry. Generally published by commercial enterprises for profit.


Often not present or small amounts of selective advertising. Advertising is relevant to the profession or industry. Includes advertising which appeals to a broad readership.


American Ethnologist

Journal of Communication

Science Magazine

Nation's Restaurant News

Publisher's Weekly

Advertising Age


Scientific American




Adapted from Purdue University Libraries

Last modified: December 20, 2010