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Differences between Magazines and Journals: Home

To determine whether a source is a magazine, a trade journal or a scholarly journal, you will usually need to have the item in hand. Identifying scholarly journals by title is very tricky. Not all scholarly journals have the word journal in the title and sometimes the word journal is used in titles of non-scholarly sources. When you have the item in hand, go over the table below and see which description most closely matches your item.

Magazines, journals and newspapers are all referred to as periodicals or serials.


a publication that comes out regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.)

Magazines, trade journals, and scholarly journals defined by their intent, intended audience, authors, references, layout, and advertising. First row gives examples of titles.
  Magazines Trade Journals Scholarly Journals
Examples: U.S. News & World Report
Science News
Business Week
Advertising Age
The CPA Journal
Journal of Music Theory
Studies in Romanticism
Human Development
Intent: Report on general interest topics in a broad subject field Examine problems or concerns in a particular profession or industry Report original research or experiments in a specific field or discipline
Intended Audience: Educated but non-expert reader Practitioners of a particular profession, trade or industry Scholars and researchers
Authors: Staff writers, freelance authors, guest scholars Staff writers, freelance authors, guest scholars Scholars and researchers
References: Usually do not cite sources Usually do not cite sources Cite sources with footnotes and/or bibliographies
Layout: Glossy paper, photos, cartoons, sidebars Glossy paper, photos, cartoons, sidebars Plain paper, tables, figures, charts
Advertising: Many general consumer ads Many ads, usually for products and services related to a specific field Fewer ads, usually for other journals or special services and products to a specific field