Scholarly vs Popular vs Trade

Identifying Scholarly, Popular and Trade Publications

Frequently Asked Questions

What are scholarly (peer reviewed) sources?
The purpose of scholarly sources is to share information based on original research or experimentation within a specific academic subject. Scholarly articles are peer reviewed (refereed) by persons with recognized expertise in the field under discussion. Books published by University Presses can also fall into this category.

What is peer reviewed?
Editors at peer reviewed journals send out submitted articles to experts in the field who evaluate the research.

Are all journal articles peer reviewed?
No, only articles that were reviewed by experts in the discipline before publication in a peer reviewed journal.

Is all material published in a peer reviewed journal considered peer reviewed?
No. Peer reviewed only applies to research articles. Other material such as book reviews, editorials, opinion pieces and letters to the editor are not peer reviewed.

Is Peer Reviewed and Scholarly the same thing?
Peer-reviewed means the article was reviewed and critiqued by experts in the same subject area. Scholarly means an article was written by an expert for an audience of other experts, researchers or students. Not all scholarly articles are from peer reviewed journals.

What are the characteristics of a peer reviewed journal article?
> written by experts for professionals
> based on original research or intellectual inquiry
> contains extensive citations to all sources used
> peer reviewed by professionals in the field before publication

How do I find peer reviewed journal articles?
A good place to start is Library Quick Search ( which searches across many (but not all) of the library's resources and databases. Look for the check box to limit to just peer reviewed journal articles or filter for Scholarly & Peer Reviewed in the left hand column after your search.

How can I find out if a journal is peer reviewed?
Consult Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. Look for the referee's jacket next to the title. 

What is a popular source? 
Popular journals target a broad range of readers, are widely available, are usually cheaper to acquire, and are intended to entertain or inform a mass audience. Sources are rarely cited.

What are professional or trade sources?
Professional or trade publications contain articles on current news and trends for a specific industry or profession and are written by authors with knowledge in the field for practitioners. Articles report general news, trends, and opinions, rather than advanced research, and are not peer-reviewed.

Is a textbook a scholarly source?
If it is a textbook written for classroom use, probably not. Textbooks are designed more as teaching tools. However, you can use references in your textbook to identify scholarly resources.

What is a journal of opinion?
Opinion journals are written from a definite coherent political viewpoint for an audience with a general education. Articles comment and analyze politics and current events and trends. For example, see a list of political magazines on Wikipedia.