- Popular Literature
- Scholarly Literature
- Trade and Professional Literature
- Journal Types: A Comparative Chart
- How Can You Tell?
- A Word of Caution
Popular literature is written by journalists, who are employed by the magazine for which they write. Journalists cover news and current events in a field, write profiles of people, places, or events, and express political opinions. Some examples of popular literature are:
- The New York Times
- National Geographic
- Psychology Today
- Natural History
- The Nation
- New Republic
- Science News
Scholarly literature is written by researchers who are experts in their field. People who write for academic journals are employed by colleges, universities, or other institutions of education or research. They submit articles to the editors of the journals, who decide whether or not to publish the article. The most prestigious academic journals subject articles to the peer-review process. This means that, before an article is accepted for publication, it is reviewed by several experts in the field, who suggest possible changes, and recommend to the editor of the journal whether or not to publish the article. Some examples of academic journals are:
- Journal of American History
- Psychological Review
- Annals of the National Academy of Science
- Acta Archaeologia
- James Joyce Quarterly
- Journal of the American Musicological Society
Trade and Professional Literature
Trade and professional literature resembles scholarly literature in that it is written by people working in the field. However, the articles in trade and professional journals cover news in the field, brief reports on research, and opinions about trends and events. Some examples of trade and professional journals are:
- American Libraries
- Drug Store News
- Anthropology Newsletter
- Back Stage Magazine
Journal Types: A Comparative Chart
|Purpose||To inform and entertain the general reader||To communicate research and scholarly ideas||To apply information; to provide professional support|
|Audience||General public||Other scholars, students||Practitioners in the field, professionals|
|Coverage||Broad variety of public interest topics, cross disciplinary||Very narrow and specific subjects||Information relevant to field and members of a group|
|Publisher||Commercial||Professional associations; academic institutions; and many commercial publishers||Professional, occupational, or trade group|
|Writers||Employees of the publication, freelancers (including journalists and scholars)||Scholars, researchers, experts, usually listed with their institutional affiliation||Members of the profession, journalists, researchers, scholars|
|Frequency||Frequent, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis||Less frequent, on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis||Frequent, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis|
|Examples||Time, US News and World Report, Modern Healthcare||Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome||Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal|
How Can You Tell?
The comparative chart above has some criteria that you can use to make an educated guess about the type of journal. Also, consider the following:
- Check the description of the index you are using. The publisher of the index may include information on the types of periodicals indexed. Hint: Most of the material that appears in Humanities Abstracts is of a scholarly nature. Material indexed in Academic Search Premier includes both popular and scholarly literature.
- If possible, examine the periodical. At the beginning of the magazine/journal you will find information about the publication. Academic journals usually include information for contributors about the process of submitting articles for publication.
A Word of Caution
Not everything published in scholarly journals is appropriate to use as a resource for research. Book reviews, editorial (opinion) pieces, short news items etc. do not count as "scholarly articles". If you are unsure about using the information you've found, be sure to check with a librarian or your professor.