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Types of Publications

Distinguishing Scholarly from Popular and Trade Publications

The most reliable criteria for determining whether a journal is popular or scholarly is whether articles go through a process of peer review prior to publication*. However, that is rarely noted in the article itself. There are several clues you can look for, and questions to ask yourself about the item you are looking at, that will help you determine whether it is from a popular, trade, or scholarly publication - Popular or Scholarly?

If popular and scholarly are at opposite ends of the publication spectrum, trade publications fall somewhere in-between. The articles in trade publications may be written by journalists, college professors, or someone working in the field with extensive expertise. Articles in trade publications are written for a knowledgeable audience, however they tend to be practitioners rather than researchers (accountants rather than economists; history buffs rather than historians; marketing/advertising professionals rather than demographers). Therefore, much of the evidence important to researchers (literature review, presentation of methodology and findings, footnotes, references, detailed charts of data) is not included in articles that appear in trade publications.

*Read more about Peer Review in the The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science.


Some examples - you decide if they are Popular, Trade, or Scholarly and record your answers on this worksheet

  1. Bancroft, Marjory A. 2003. "Beyond the language barrier: what managers should know about laws that govern language assistance for immigrants in publicly-funded programs and how to meet these service delivery challenges." The Public Manager, 32 (2) : 6-9.

  2. Frey, William H. 1998. "The diversity myth." American Demographics. 20 (6): 38-43.

  3. Frey, William H. 1996. "Immigration, domestic migration, and demographic Balkanization in America: new evidence for the 1990s." Population and Development Review. 22 (4) : 741-763.

  4. Mollica, Richard, & McDonald, Laura. 2002. "Refugees and mental health." UN Chronicle, 39 (2) : 29-30.

  5. Chung, Rita Chi-Ying, & Bemak, Fred. 2002. "Revisiting the California Southeast Asian mental health needs assessment data: an examination of refugee ethnic and gender differences." Journal of Counseling and Development. 80 (1) : 111-119.

  6. Young, Marta Y. 2001. "Moderators of stress in Salvadoran refugees: The role of social and personal resources." The International Migration Review. 35 (3) : 840- 869.

  7. Lipman, Zada. 2002. "A dirty dilemma: the hazardous waste trade." Harvard International Review, 23 (4) : 67-71.

  8. EXTRA CREDIT: Frey, William H. 2003. "Metropolitan Magnets for International and Domestic Migrants." Washington DC: Brookings Institution Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy. Brookings Census 2000 Series.


Answer Key
Discussion of the type of publications in which these articles appear
and the clues you can use to figure it out.


updated October 22, 2008
Anne Zald, University Libraries