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ENG 298 A: Writing Links with Communication 200: What are Scholarly, Popular, & Trade Publications?

Research guide supporting English 298 A

Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Sources




trade magazine cover

Scholarly sources - books and journals - disseminate research and scholarly discussions among scholars (faculty, researchers, students) in a discipline.   Popular sources - magazines, newspapers, broadcast news, blogs, etc. - inform and entertain the general public.   Trade publications are a combination of scholarly and popular sources that professionals in specific industries use to inform and share information about that industry with one another and those interested in the industry. 


What's the difference?




Purpose - why are they published?
To disseminate original research and scholarly discussions among scholars in a discipline.   To inform and entertain about current events and popular culture. To advance a profession or industry; to inform and share info about news, trends, technologies, best practices, and products for a specific industry or profession.   
Audience - who reads them?
Scholars, researchers, and students within a specific discipline.   General public. Members of a profession or trade.
Author - who writes them?
Scholars, professors, researchers, and professionals.  Their credentials are usually identified.     Journalists.  Author may not be named.   Professionals in the field; maybe be a journalist with subject expertise.  
Publisher - who publishes or produces them?
Scholarly book or journal publishers, university press, or professional association (National Communication Association - NCA) Usually commercial groups. Usually associations or commercial groups.
Content - what do they look like? Are they readable by many?

Mostly text; may have black and white figures, graphs, tables, or charts; few advertisements.  

Highly specialized; includes specialized vocabulary and jargon that is readily understood by researchers in the field, but not an average reader.  

Some text; glossy, color photographs; easy to read layout; lots of advertisements.  

General language is used; articles may be read and understood by most people.

Some text; photographs; some graphics and charts; advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.

Specialized; includes jargon that is best understood by professionals in the field.  

What are their Advantages?
  • Articles are usually evaluated by experts before publication (peer reviewed or refereed).
  • References, footnotes, or bibliographies support research and point to further research about the topic.  
  • Authors describe methods and provide data to support research results.  
  • Written for everyone.
  • Timely coverage of current events and popular topics.
  • Some have editors who fact check and approve the content before publication.
  • Timely coverage of industry trends.
  • Sometimes contain short bibliographies.
  • Shorter articles that are informal and provide practical tips and tricks.  
What are their Disadvantages?
  • Specialized vocabulary that can be difficult for non-specialists to read.
  • Research and review process takes time; not as useful for current events and technologies.  
  • Scholarly journals are expensive and may not be readily available.
  • Articles selected by editors who may know little about the topic.
  • Authors usually do not cite their sources.
  • Quick deadlines mean content review is limited; Stories may come from other sources (ex. wire services) making it difficult to review the content.
  • Published to make a profit; the line between informing and selling may be blurred.  
  • Not peer reviewed, although author is usually a professional in the field.
  • Use of specialized terminology may limit readability. 
  • Evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge not rigorous research.  
  • Articles may be biased to support an industry or company.


What's your source?

Not sure if your article is scholarly or popular?  Need to verify that a journal is refereed?  Search the  Ulrichsweb periodicals directory for the title of the publication in which the article was published to see if the Document Type is academic/scholarly.


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