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Drama: 54-281: Foundations of Drama II: 20th Century Productions: What is a scholarly journal?

What is a scholarly journal?

Here is a good comparison chart defining and comparing scholarly, trade and popular journals as well as primary and secondary resources.

Ivana Niseteo. What is a Scholarly Journal? Simon Frazer University Library, August 8, 2011.



Scholarly Journals






Trade Publications



Academics and experts in the discipline or field who are always identified

Professional writers, not necessarily experts; writers are not always identified

Industry experts, professionals, or practitioners who are not always identified


Facilitate scholarly communication between members of a particular academic discipline and/or the public

Provide general information and entertainment to a broad audience


Provide information to members of a particular industry or profession

Content Description

Extensive research articles and analyses written in formal academic styles; some of these types of articles can be considered primary sources.

May include scholarly review articles or news sections which briefly report on new research; these are not research articles 

Plain covers, and generally more charts, graphs, and illustrations than photographs; sometimes advertising

Often have the word "journal" in the title

Information is always specific to a particular academic discipline or field, and usually requires professional or academic knowledge to be fully understood

General interest articles that can include a mixture of fact, anecdote, and/or opinion

Glossy covers, many pictures, extensive use of colour images, and usually much advertising

Often called "popular magazines"

No special vocabulary or knowledge is generally required to understand

Exclusively professional, industry, or trade information

Articles can be fact, anecdote, and/or opinion.

Usually have colourful covers, and quite often advertising specific to the profession, trade, or industry

Often require professional knowledge and vocabulary to be fully understood


Academic organisations

Commercial publishers

Usually professional and trade organisations

Citations, footnotes/endnotes, and/or bibliographies


Usually none


Peer Reviewed

Almost always

Editorial board members are listed in each journal issue, and/or on the journal's website.


 Very rarely


Print and electronic

Print and electronic

Print and electronic


  • Serials
    • Is the broad term for any publication issued periodically, including newspapers, journals, magazines, annuals, numbered monographic series and the proceedings, transactions and memoirs of societies.
  • Periodicals
    • All periodicals are serials, but are publications issued at regular intervals (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and are intended to continue indefinitely
    • Include newspapers, magazines, journals, and trade publications
  • Scholarly journal
    • Also called academic journal or very often peer-reviewed journal. Includes original research articles, written by researchers and experts in a particular academic discipline.
  • Peer-reviewed journal
    • Also known as scholarly journal, or academic journal, or refereed journal. Publishes only original research articles that are subjected to a rigorous evaluation through the peer-review process.
    • The majority of scholarly journals go through the peer-review process, although there are some that are scholarly and non-peer reviewed.
  •  Peer-review process
    • Also known as the referee process
    • An editorial board asks subject experts to review and evaluate submitted articles before accepting them for publication in a scholarly journal
    • Submissions are evaluated using criteria including the excellence, novelty and significance of the research or ideas
    • Scholarly journals use this process to protect and maintain the quality of material they publish
    • Members of the editorial board are listed near the beginning of each journal issue
  • Primary sources
    • Provide firsthand information in the original words of the creator or eye witness
    • Include creative works, for example: poetry, drama, novels, music, art, films
    • Include original documents, for example: interviews, diaries, speeches, letters, minutes, film footage, oral histories, manuscripts
    • Include reports of original research and ideas, for example: statistical data, case studies, conference papers, technical reports and research papers published in scholarly journals
  •  Secondary Sources
    • Provide information reviewing, evaluating, analyzing or interpreting primary sources
    • Include criticism and interpretation of creative works
    • Include interpretations of original documents, for example: biographies, historical analyses, textbooks and encyclopedia articles
    • Include summaries and reviews of scholarly findings, for example, review articles, textbooks, encyclopedia articles and both scholarly journal and popular magazine articles
  • Review articles
    • Are secondary sources that report and summarize other authors' works on a given subject
    • Are a useful overview tool; they provide a summary of recent research on a particular subject
    • Review articles are not considered research articles
  • Research Articles
    • Articles describing new research or ideas
    • Written in a formal manner that includes background information, methods used, results/interpretation and significance
  • Open Access (OA) Journals
    • Journals that are freely available online - this term specifically refers to free scholarly journals