Skip to Main Content

SOCW 3201: Social Work Practice


Scholarly, Popular, and Professional/Trade Periodicals:

What’s the Difference?


Generally, scholarly periodicals are viewed as being more authoritative while popular periodicals are viewed as being less credible. This is why faculty often require students to use scholarly, not popular, articles for their research. The table below will give you some guidelines in deciding whether a periodical is scholarly, popular, or trade.







Social Work Journal

Psychology Today

Social Work Today


Scholars, researchers, students

General public

Professionals in the field or industry


Credentials provided; usually a scholar or specialist in a particular field; articles often have joint authors.

Frequently a journalist paid to write articles; may or may not have subject expertise.

Professionals in the field; sometimes a journalist with subject expertise.



Graphs, charts & tables; very few advertisements and photographs.


Lots of glossy advertisements and photographs.

Photographs; some graphs, charts, and advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.


In-depth, very specific information with the goal of scholarly communication; original research

Popular topics, current events; may include personal narratives or opinions; general information, purpose to entertain or inform

Industry news, trends, and statistics; practical information for professionals working in the field or industry


Academic or scholarly language; Specialized terminology; may require knowledge in subject area

Easily understandable to most readers; vocabulary in general usage.

Specialized terminology but not as technical as a scholarly journal

Article Layout

Structured; Includes authors’ credentials, article abstract, goals and objectives, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.

Usually peer reviewed.

Informal; may not present supporting evidence or a conclusion.


Not peer reviewed; only evaluated by editorial staff.

Informal; evidence is drawn from personal experience or common knowledge.


Not peer reviewed; evaluated by editorial staff.


Required. Quotes and facts are used to support research.

Rare. Little, if any, information is given about source materials.

Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.

Other Examples

Annals of Mathematics; Journal of Education

Time; Sports Illustrated; Better Homes & Gardens

Architectural Record; Construction Specified