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Communication Studies

A research guide for students in the field of Communication Studies.

Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Information

What's in them?

Scholarly articles present original research on events related to a specific discipline written by professors, researchers, or professionals

Example - AJP: The American Journal of Psychology

Popular articles are about current events and popular culture, opinion pieces, self-help tips, or advertising written by staff writers or free-lancers

Example - Psychology Today

Trade articles are about news, trends, best practices, and products for a specific industry or profession Written by a professional in that field or journalist with subject area expertise

Example - Monitor on Psychology

What are their advantages?

Scholarly information:

  • Is usually evaluated by experts before publication (peer-reviewed)
  • Has footnotes or bibliographies to support research and point to further research on a topic
  • Has authors that describe methodology and supply data to support research results

Example - Nature

Popular information:


  • Is written for non- specialists
  • Provides timely coverage of popular topics and current events
  • Has good sources for topics related to popular culture

Example - Scientific American

Trade information:

  • Has timely coverage of industry trends
  • Sometimes contains short bibliographies
  • Has shorter articles that are informal and practical

Example -Chemistry & Engineering News

What are their disadvantages?

Scholarly information:

  • Has articles that often use specialized terminology that can be difficult for non-specialists to read
  • Includes scholarly journals that are expensive and may not be readily available
  • May not be as useful for current events or popular culture due to long research process

Example - The American Economic Review

Popular information:

  • Has articles that are selected by editors who may know little about the topic
  • Has authors that usually do not cite sources
  • Publishes to make a profit; the line between informing and selling may be blurred

Example - The Economist

Trade information: 

  • Is not peer-reviewed, though author is usually a professional in the field
  • Uses specialized terminology of the field
  • Has evidence drawn from personal experience or common knowledge but NOT rigorous research

Example: The Banker

What are examples of primary and secondary sources?

Scholarly information:


  • An example of a primary source that is scholarly would be observation field notes taken for ethnographic research.  
  • An example of a secondary source that is scholarly would be a rhetorical analysis of Obama's public speeches.

Popular information:


  • An example of a primary source that is popular would be a TV interview with a celebrity in audio/visual format.
  • An example of a secondary source that is popular would be a magazine article about a celebrity that includes quotes.

Trade information:



  • An example of a primary source that is trade would be shoe sale statistics in the footwear industry.
  • An example of a secondary source that is trade would be an article analyzing shoe sale statistics and predicting future trends for the footwear industry.