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Scholarly, popular and sensation journals: Introduction & Definitions

How to tell the difference between scholarly, trade, substantive news, popular and sensation journals. Includes links to ECC print journal and online article databases.


Journals, magazines, and newspapers are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines.

East Central College's print and online journal collection is diverse. It is often difficult to distinguish between the various levels of scholarship found in the collection.

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

  • Scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles are written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields. In the sciences and social sciences, they often publish research results
  • Trade journal is practical information for professionals working in the field or industry. It includes current news, trends and products in a specific industry.
  • Substantive news articles are reliable sources of information on events and issues of public concern.
  • Popular articles reflect the tastes of the general public and are often meant as entertainment.
  • Sensational intend to arouse strong curiosity, interest, or reaction. They are not factually accurate.

Keeping these definitions in mind, and realize that none of the lines drawn between types of journals can ever be totally clear cut.

Click on the red tabs to learn about each type of periodical.

 This Libguide adapted from, by Research & Learning Services, Olin Library, Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, USA, November 16, 2015. 

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Lisa Farrell
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