Skip to Main Content

IWU OCLS Tutorials: Types of Sources: Popular, Trade & Scholarly Periodicals


Librarians may not be available during all open hours but will answer ASAP.

After Hours & Weekend Help



Published on March 11, 2021 | 7 minute read



Popular Magazines


Trade or Professional Publications


Scholarly Journals


Peer-Reviewed Journals


Reports and White Papers




Popular Magazines

Popular magazines are magazines that you can purchase at a grocery store or book store. They are easy to read, have lots of advertising and pictures. The articles are about current events and interests. Popular magazines are rarely appropriate for academic research.


Tip: Using popular magazines in academic writing would be limited to providing evidence of current events or trends.


Examples: Time, PC World, Sports Illustrated, or USA Today.



Trade or Professional Publications

Trade or professional publications are magazines or newsletters from a trade organization or association. They may be included as a benefit of membership. The articles give current news, developments, trends and discuss current issues of that association or trade. Trade publications may be used for some research assignments.


Tip: Trade publications are useful for illustrating a point of view and sometimes statistics on an industry. But trade publications are not scholarly and can have biases, so use them carefully. 


Examples: NASSP, AORN, or The Government Accountants Journal.



Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journal articles are articles about research studies and can be lengthy. They often begin with an abstract of the article. These articles include a reference list at the end or have footnotes. You can use the reference list to find similar articles and research. Scholarly articles are written by experts (academics or researchers) for experts and use technical words that may be difficult to understand if you are not used to the specialized vocabulary. Scholarly journals include a few pictures or advertisements but may include tables, charts, and diagrams as a part of the articles. Peer-reviewed or refereed journals only publish articles that are reviewed by an editorial board.


Tip: Most of your assignments will require you to use scholarly journal articles. It is impossible to find scholarly articles on current events. You can research similar historical events to evaluate and make predictive judgments about current events. 


Reading Tip: Since these articles can be long, skim the abstract to determine whether it is relevant to your research before looking at the article.  


Research Tip: Most OCLS databases (e.g., ABI/INFORM Complete, Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete, or CINAHL) allow you to limit your search results to scholarly peer-reviewed journals. Like Emerald or Sage, a few publishers only publish for an academic audience, so you can assume articles found in these databases are scholarly. 


Examples: Journal of Business Ethics, Personnel Psychology, Elementary School Journal, Journal of Organizational Behavior, and Nursing Science Quarterly


Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine if an article is scholarly. Here are some ways to tell if an article is scholarly:

  1. The article is based on original research, or it reviews the existing literature to develop recommendations.
  2. The article is written in APA style with in-text citations and references. Articles written using other styles will have a bibliography or footnotes to give credit to the sources used.
  3. The journal name may be known for publishing only scholarly articles. Each discipline has its own set of scholarly titles.
  4. The title may include such works as Journal, Quarterly, Archives, Annals, Review, Society, or perhaps Studies. Caution: many newspapers have the word Journal in their name. 
  5. The articles in a scholarly journal tend to be rather long and are not "easy reading." Scholarly articles include few pictures or advertisements but may include tables, charts, and diagrams as a part of the articles.
  6. The author's credentials are usually included. The author may be identified as a prominent researcher in the discipline.
  7. The content and how the article is written depend greatly on the specialized terminology of the discipline.


Tip: If unsure whether an article is scholarly, check with a librarian. Librarians can use reference tools such as UlrichsWeb to verify whether a journal is scholarly and publishes peer-reviewed articles.




Peer-Reviewed Journals

Peer-reviewed (sometimes called refereed journals) include only articles that have gone through a process of feedback before publication. This means that: 

  1. The article was written by an expert or scholar in the field or on the topic.
  2. The article was reviewed by other experts or scholars ("peers") in the field or on the topic who assess the article for accuracy and other scholarship indicators before providing feedback to the author.
  3. The author made any necessary edits or changes to the article based on the feedback provided before the article was published.


Peer-reviewed status is a significant indicator of whether a source is scholarly. Evaluate sources you find to determine if it is scholarly, relevant, and current enough to be used in your research.


Keep in mind that even if a journal contains peer-reviewed articles, it may also have other types of materials such as editorials, letters to the editor, and book reviews, that are not scholarly. 



Reports and White Papers

Reports and white papers provide case studies about a policy, product, or service. United States government reports are available from several agencies, and research reports are also available from private firms and foundations.


Tip: OCLS Journal Title Search lists magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, and trade publications available through OCLS, but it does not provide information about reports and white papers.


A white paper typically refers to a promotional booklet marketing a solution to a problem. The marketing white papers are susceptible to bias. While not scholarly, white papers sometimes offer unique data, making them useful as a primary source.


Tip: Corporate and technology subjects covered in reports and white papers can be found in the database Standard & Poors and a Google search.

4201 South Washington
Marion, IN, USA 46953

Contact Us

  • Mon – Thur: 8 AM – 8 PM (ET)
  • Friday: 8 AM – 5 PM (ET)
  • Saturday: CLOSED
  • Sunday: CLOSED
  • IWU Holidays & Holidays Weekends: CLOSED

  • Librarians may not be available all open hours, but will answer ASAP.