Periodicals are usually separated into several major groups: popular, trade, and scholarly. If you are able to recognize the differences between these sources, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of information you need.

Popular magazines like People, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone can be good sources for articles on recent events or pop-culture topics, while Harper’s, Scientific American, and The New Republic offer more in-depth articles on a wider range of subjects. This second group of sources is geared towards readers who, although not experts, are knowledgeable about the issues presented.

Trade journals are geared towards professionals in a discipline. They report news and trends in a field, but not original research. They may also provide product or service reviews, job listings, and advertisements.

Scholarly journals provide articles of interest to experts or researchers in a discipline. An editorial board of respected scholars (peers) reviews all articles submitted to a journal, deciding whether they provide a noteworthy contribution to the field and should be published. This process is known as “peer review,” and it is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals are scholarly journals that only publish articles that have passed through this review process. In scholarly journals there are typically few or no advertisements, and articles will include a list of references to cite material.

National Geographic Food Technology Journal of Morphology
 “Article Title” “Eating Green” “Is Local Better?” “Getting Evidence for Most and Least Fattening Local Eating Customs from Individuals’ Reports in Their Culture’s Terms”
Summary The article discusses environmentally conscious eating choices. Consumers can choose organic options, purchase locally grown foods, and walk or bike to farmers’ markets to help reduce their carbon footprints. The author reports that eating local at the basic level makes sense because fewer food miles (the distance food travels before it reaches the consumer) result in lower emissions. The article argues that the least fattening patterns of behavior can be identified in a culture’s own words.
Audience General public Practitioners Researchers working in the field
Bibliography No Sometimes Yes
Articles Usual Length/Depth, Structure, and Audience
  • Articles are mostly fairly short overviews
  • General interest articles focus on current events
  • Of varied lengths, the articles offer advice and tips
  • Articles are of interest to those working in the magazine’s field
  • Long and very focused articles use a specialized vocabulary for experts in the field
  • Article structure usually contains an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion sections along with references
Review Policy
  • Magazine editor
  • Magazine editor and/or possibly a board
  • Editorial board/ scholars in the field
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Journalist or specialist
  • Someone working in the field
  • Researcher or expert in the field
  • Glossy
  • Many graphics
  • Many advertisements
  • Glossy
  • Advertising specific to that trade
  • Usually black-and-white
  • Frequent charts, graphs, or statistics
  • Little or no advertising