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Popular, Trade & Scholarly Periodicals

The best way to define Popular magazines is to think about the titles you would purchase in the drug store or grocery store. They are easy to read, have lots of advertising, and pictures. The articles usually cover topics of current interest or importance. Rarely are these appropriate for academic research projects. Common examples of these kinds of magazines are Time, PC World, Sports Illustrated or USA Today.

Trade/professional journals are journals that usually you receive because you have a membership in a trade or organization. They may be included as a benefit of your membership. The articles give current news, developments, trends and discuss current issues of that association or trade. For some kinds of research assignments it may be appropriate to use references from these kinds of journals for your writing. Some examples of trade/professional journals are NASSP, AORN or The Government Accountants Journal.

Scholarly journals These articles are about research studies and can be lengthy. They often begin with an abstract of the article to follow. It includes a reference list at the end or has footnotes. This reference list can be used to find more sources like the one you are reading. The writing uses technical words and may be difficult to understand if you are not used to the specialized vocabulary. The journal includes few pictures or advertisements, but may include tables, charts, and diagrams as a part of the articles. The authors tend to be academicians or researchers. The articles are reviewed by an editorial board before acceptance for publication. It is known as a peer reviewed or refereed journal. Some of the online databases, e.g. ABI/INFORM Complete, Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete, or CINAHL, allow limiting your search results to only the ones that are peer reviewed journals. Some examples of scholarly journals are Journal of Business Ethics, Personnel Psychology, Elementary School Journal, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and Nursing Science Quarterly. This category of journals is much more acceptable for research in the academic setting.

For a more complete understanding of each category and some other ones, please keep reading below.

Scholarly & Peer Reviewed Journals; White Papers & Trade Journals

Scholarly journals contain articles sharing the latest in academic thought and research studies.   Such journals include few pictures or advertisements, but may include tables, charts, and diagrams as a part of the articles.   The authors tend to be academicians or researchers, and the intended readers are likewise researchers, professors, and university students.   The reader of a scholarly article is expected to possess an extensive vocabulary and to know the technical words used in the subject.   Scholarly articles review how prior research aligns with the current finding, and therefore provide many supporting citations and references.
Tip: The reference list at the close of an article can be mined to obtain more sources like the one you are reading, as these references list relevant work in the subject employed by the author.

Scholarly articles are reviewed by an editorial board before acceptance for publication.   Scholarly journals often publish on a quarterly basis, and the editorial review process may cause a year to pass between the author's article being submitted and the article appearing in print.
Tip: It is impossible to find scholarly articles on current events, but one can use scholarly articles about similar historic events to evaluate and make predictive judgements about current events.

Researcher writers provide a detailed account of their research methods so as to allow their work to be tested by others. They often employ statistics to validate the applicability of their samples to a larger population. As a result, research articles are lengthy and challenging to comprehend.
Tip: If an easy-to-read summary of background information on a topic is required before tackling a research article, read an entry from a secondary source, such as a reference book.   A reference book provides a non-scholarly overview of a topic, based on the accepted knowledge that existed when the book was printed.

As a service to readers, scholars are required to submit an abstract (summary) of the article. This abstract appears at the start of the printed article, and appears in database indexes.
Tip: Skim an abstract to determine whether it is relevent to your research before even looking at the article.

Many of the OCLS article databases have a checkbox labeled "scholarly."   When this checkbox is selected, only scholarly articles will appear in the result list.   The database shall not display results for articles from poplar magazines, newspapers and trade journals.  
This checkbox which eliminates non-scholarly results is one of the limiter checkboxes found in many article databases.

A few publishers in advanced fields, such as Emerald (management & library science) or Sage (management & medicine), only publish for an academic audience, and their work can be assumed to be scholarly.

However, if an article is found using a search engine, it is difficult to determine if it is scholarly. The following indicators are helpful in determining if an article is scholarly:

  1. The article based on original research, or it reviews the existing literature to develop recommendations.
  2. An article written in APA style will have in-text citation and references; articles written using other document styles will have a bibliography or employ footnotes to give credit to the concepts or research of others.
  3. The journal name may be known for publishing only scholarly articles. Each discipline has it own set of scholarly titles.
  4. The title may include such works as Journal, Quarterly, Archives, Annals, Review, Society, or perhaps Studies.   (Caution: many newspapers have the word Journal in their name).
  5. The articles in a scholarly journal tend to be rather long and are not "easy reading."   Scholarly articles includes few pictures or advertisements, but may include tables, charts, and diagrams as a part of the articles.
  6. The author's credentials are usually included.   The author may be identified as a prominent researcher in the discipline.
  7. The content and way that the article is written depends greatly on the specialized terminology of the discipline.

Tip: If unsure whether an article is scholarly, check with a librarian. Librarians can use reference tools such as UlrichsWeb that librarians use to verify whether a journal is scholarly and publishes peer-reviewed articles.

Peer reviewed journals are an elite subset of scholarly writing.   Peer reviewed articles are reviewed by experts in the field ("peers" of the author) before acceptance for publication.   The paper submitted to the peer reviewers has its cover page removed to conceal the author's name and affiliation in an effort to eliminate bias.
Tip: The removal of the cover page during peer review is why APA document style calls for the first page of the paper's text to repeat the full title of the paper.

Peer reviewed research has been checked multiple times to ensure that it is an worthy addition to the academic literature, and therefore such articles can be used authoritatively to guide later researchers and academics.
Tip: Peer reviewers are sometimes called "referees", and a "refereed article" has gone through a peer review process.

Some of the online databases, e.g. Academic Search Complete or CINAHL, allow limiting your search to results that are only from peer reviewed journals.   Some examples of scholarly journals are Journal of Business Ethics, Personnel Psychology, Elementary School Journal or Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Tip: UlrichsWeb and EBSCO "Publications" information are tools that can be used to verify that a journal offers peer-reviewed content.

Even though a journal contains peer reviewed articles, it may also have other types of materials such as editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews, notices of upcoming conferences and even humor.
Tip: If a piece of writing does not credit the work of prior academics by providing references or footnotes, then it is not peer reviewed.

Reports and White Papers are known as "gray literature" because they have not been well indexed (limiting future retrieval). These publications usually provide a case study about a policy or product or service. United States government reports are available from a number of agencies, and research reports are also available from private firms and foundations.
Tip: Journal Title Search lists the magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals and trade publications available through OCLS, but it does not provide information about reports and white papers.

The term "white paper" was initially used for British government policy reports, but "white paper" in the United States typically refers to a promotional booklet marketing a solution to a problem. The marketing white papers are susceptible to bias.   While not scholarly, white papers sometimes offer unique data, making them useful as a primary source.
Tip: Corporate and technology subjects covered in reports and white papers have become far more accessible due to services such as Standard & Poors as well as Internet Search Engines.

Trade publications, often called "trade journals" are magazines or newsletters that are distributed to members in a trade or organization.   They are not scholarly, as their articles rarely have references crediting the prior work of others.   They may be included as a benefit of organizational membership, or may be completely funded by advertisers.
Tip: Many trade publications are switching to "Internet-only" distribution, and thus no longer distribute paper editions.

The articles give current news, developments, trends and discuss current issues facing that association or trade. Articles in these publications are sometimes sponsored by advertisers, and product reviews present the positive aspects of an advertiser's product or service.
Tip: Laboratory reviews of consumer products can sometimes be found by including the word "review" in a search box. Some EBSCO databases provide a "review" selector, though this mainly retrieves book reviews.

Because trade publications are the voice for the membership of an organization or industry, their promotion of specified objectives results in strong bias.   For example, an article originating from the National Pork Producers reveals a set of underlying assumptions that differs from an article issued by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Tip: Quotes from trade publications are useful for illustrating a point of view, and sometimes these publications provide statistics on an industry.   That said, trade publications should be rarely used in academic writing because of the bias of their producers.

Popular magazines and newspapers are the titles you would purchase in the drug store or grocery store. They are easy to read, having lots of advertising and pictures.   Popular magazines are issued at least once a month, and newspapers are issued at least as often, so the articles usually cover topics of current interest or importance.   Their usage in academic writing would be limited to providing evidence of current events or trends.   Tip: It is rarely appropriate to cite popular magazines in academic research projects.   Common examples of these kinds of magazines are Time, PC World, Sports Illustrated or USA Today.


 


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