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English-W 131: English Composition: What's the Difference?

Guides, resources, and videos for English-W 131 English Composition classes.

Why should you know the difference?

  • Articles from periodicals (magazines, journals) are used in research papers and projects.
  • Instructors often specify that scholarly articles MUST be used as resources.
  • You will be able to determine the article's degree of authority and depth.
  • The acceptability of professional or trade articles varies by subject and by instructor. If in doubt, ask your instructor.

What is the Difference between Journals and Magazines?

Journals and magazines are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines. With an online periodical collection as large and diverse as the one the Library provides, it is often difficult to distinguish among the levels of scholarship represented.

In this guide we have divided the criteria for periodical literature into four categories:

  • Scholarly
  • Professional/Trade
  • Substantive News or General Interest
  • Popular/Sensational


Webster's Third International Dictionary defines

  • Scholarly as: 1) concerned with academic study, especially research, 2) exhibiting the methods and attitudes of a scholar, and 3) having the manner and appearance of a scholar.
  • Professional as: 1) engaged in one of the learned professions or in an occupation requiring a high level of training and proficiency; 2) reflecting the results of education, training, and experience.
  • Trade as: 1) group of persons engaged in a particular occupation, business; 2) the group of firms or corporations engaged in a line of work.
  • Substantive as: having a solid base, being substantial.
  • Popular as: fit for, or reflecting the taste and intelligence of, the people at large.
  • Sensational as: arousing or intending to arouse strong curiosity, interest or reaction.

Keeping these definitions in mind, and realizing that none of the lines drawn among types of journals can ever be totally clear-cut, please consult the tabs across the top of the page to learn more about each type of journal or magazine.

This LibGuide was adapted from: Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals – A Checklist of Criteria. Cornell University Library and from LibGuide on Scholarly Journals. Piedmont College

Subject Guide

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Nicholas A. Casas
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