Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Sep 06, 2022     Views: 47978

You can't always tell what kind of periodical you're reading just by its title.  For example: the Wall Street Journal, despite having the word "journal" in its title, is a newspaper!

Eliminate some of the guesswork by targeting the kind of articles you need as you search. See:

While every journal, magazine and newspaper is a bit different, there are some clues that can help you determine what kind of article you're reading.   See the table below for a comparison.

If you've examined your article and still aren't sure what type you've got, Google the periodical title.  On the periodical's website, read about its purpose, audience and topics (look for an "about" or "scope" link).  Remember that peer-reviewed journals will always state that they are peer-reviewed.  If you still can't decide, email the librarians for help.

Newspaper articles: Magazine articles: Trade journal articles: Peer reviewed articles:


  • Typically very short (1-2 pages).
  • Author may not be listed.
  • Usually focused on general interest topics:  news (local and/or national), entertainment, lifestyle and popular culture.
  • Written for a broad audience, using informal, everyday language. 
  • Featured articles may be accompanied by photographs, but most (due to length restrictions) will not.
  • Rarely, if ever, cite their sources or provide a list of references.


Example newspapers: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post                   


  • Usually short (seldom more than a few pages long).
  • Author may not be listed.
  • Some are focused on general interest topics (news, entertainment and popular culture), while others are geared toward professional or personal interests/hobbies.
  • Written for a broad audience, using informal, everyday language.
  • Often feature colorful photographs or graphics.
  • Do not typically cite their sources or provide a list of references.

Example magazines:  Time, Newsweek, National Geographic

(Can be scholarly)

  • May be longer (5+ pages).
  • Author will usually be listed.
  • Focused on topics related to the target industry.
  • Written for professionals, using some technical or discipline-specific terms.  Tone is often formal.
  • May feature photographs or graphics.  Charts and graphs are common.
  • May cite sources or provide a list of references.

Example trade journals: Advertising Age, Infectious Disease News Rural Educator

(Usually scholarly)

  • Usually longer (10+ pages common).
  • Author(s) will always be listed (along with their credentials)
  • Focused on very narrow topics of interest to researchers in a target discipline.  Research articles/original studies are common.
  • Written for professionals and researchers, in a formal tone, with plenty of technical or discipline-specific language.
  • Colorful photos/graphics rare, but articles will often include charts, graphs or tables to illustrate data.
  • Always cite their sources and include a comprehensive list of references.

Example peer-reviewed journals: Basic & Applied Ecology, Cold War History, Journal of Information Privacy & Security



See also: 


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