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Is it scholarly? Distinguishing periodical types

The table below lists some of the distinguishing characteristics among different types of periodicals. Keep in mind:

If you are still unsure whether a periodical is considered an academic/scholarly journal, Ulrich's Periodicals Directory lists all periodicals that are currently being published. For most entries, there is a section called document type that indicates its periodical type. When in doubt, check with your instructor concerning the suitability of a source for your assignment.



Scholarly Journals
(also called academic,
peer-reviewed, and refereed)

Professional and
Trade Periodicals

Popular and Special
Interest Magazines

Purpose for

  • Inform and report original research
  • Provide in-depth analysis of issues related to a specific discipline
  • Current trends, news, and research in a specific field 
  • Provide employment & career information
  • Entertain, inform, and persuade without providing in-depth analysis


  • Lengthy articles
  • Citations, bibliographies
  • Charts, graphs, tables
  • Some research articles
  • Statistics and forecasts
  • Sources cited
  • Articles usually fairly short
  • Sources generally not cited

Frequency of

  • Often quarterly
  • Often monthly
  • Usually monthly or weekly


  • Scholars and professors
  • Researchers in the field
  • Author credentials included
  • Scholars
  • Staff writers
  • Freelance journalists
  • Freelance journalists
  • Editorial staff
  • Authors may not be identified


  • Generally lengthy
  • Focus on a narrow subject or piece of research
  • Varying lengths
  • Research articles
  • News from the field
  • "How to" information
  • Usually short
  • General information, little detail

Words and
Jargon Used

  • Terminology used by scholars in the discipline
  • Language specific to those in a given profession
  • Common language and sentence structure, no jargon