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JOUR 150: Media & Society: Types of Periodical Articles

Resources for finding news stories, evaluating news stories, practicing the art of journalism, and more.

Periodical Literature Types

Periodicals are publications such as newspapers, magazines, and journals that are created at regular intervals — that is, they are published periodically. The table below compares the characteristics of five common types of periodical literature.

Comparative Characteristics of Five Types of Periodicals
Criteria Sensational  Popular Magazines Substantive News &
General Interest Magazines
Trade & Technical Journals Scholarly Journals
Examples

Sensational periodicals include:
National Enquirer,
Globe, and
Star

Popular periodicals include: 
People Weekly,
Redbook, and 
GQ

Substantive News
& General Interest periodicals include:
National Geographic,
Business Week, and
Organic Gardener

Trade or Technical periodicals include:
Archaeology, 
Geotimes, and 
Aviation Week & Space Technology

Scholarly periodicals include:
JAMA, Harvard Business Review. and
Nature

Layout / Formatting Sensational periodicals use eye-grabbing layout and formatting. They're usually published in tabloid newspaper formats. Popular periodicals use colorful, attractive layout and formatting Substantive News & General Interest publications often use colorful, attractive layout and formatting. Trade & Technical periodicals often have a professional appearance without fancy layouts. Scholarly periodicals are usually plain in appearance with a formal layout.
Images Sensational periodicals use a great number of photos & illustrations to get your attention. Popular periodicals include:
People Weekly,
Redbook, and
GQ
Substantive News & General Interest periodicals use photographs & graphics to add visual appeal or explain information. Trade & Technical periodicals may have some color or black and white photos & graphics, which tend to be illustrative. Scholarly periodicals have minimal, plain graphics used to illustrate or explain information. Color is used sparingly.
Advertising Sensational periodicals use have extensive advertising for a wide range of products. Popular periodicals have a lot of ads for a wide range of products. Substantive News & General Interest periodicals have a moderate number of ads related to the publication's topic or target audience. Trade & Technical periodicals have a moderate amount of ads for product & services of use in the specific profession or field. Scholarly periodicals have no ads or only a few, selective ads targeting other researchers in the field.
Language Sensational periodicals use plain, easy-to-read language, often with highly emotional tone. Popular periodicals use plain, easy-to-read language, and may use a conversational tone. Substantive News & General Interest periodicals use plain language, but readability may vary with the intended audience. Trade & Technical periodical articles use the terminology and jargon of the field. Readability may vary with the intended audience. Scholarly periodicals articles use the terminology or jargon of the discipline area. Articles use formal language and a standardized structure.
Depth & Breadth of
Publications
Sensational publications have shallow coverage of a wide variety of topics. Popular publications tend to have fairly shallow coverage of a wide variety of topics. Substantive News & General Interest publications have shallow to moderate coverage of a more narrowly defined range of topics. Trade & Technical periodicals provide shallow to moderate coverage of topics of interest to a particular field. The breadth of topical coverage between Scholarly publications varies substantially.
Depth &
Breadth of
Articles
Sensational articles are usually shallow in their treatment of their topics. Articles in Popular periodicals tend to have a somewhat shallow coverage of their topics. Substantive News & General Interest articles provide a shallow to moderate depth exploration of their topics. rade & Technical periodical articles provide shallow to moderately in-depth exploration of their topics. Articles in Scholarly periodicals usually have an extremely narrow focus, but go into great depth about their topic.
Credibility Sensational periodicals have little to no credibility. Popular publications have limited credibility in the academic context. Substantive News & General Interest publications have a low to moderate level of credibility in the academic context. Trade & Technical periodical publications have a moderate level of credibility in the academic context. Peer-reviewed articles from Scholarly publications have a high level of credibility.
Intended
Audience
Sensational periodicals are meant to be read by the general public. Popular periodicals are meant to be read by the general public. Substantive News & General Interest periodicals tend to be targeted to specific, often educated, sectors of the public. Trade & Technical periodicals are targeted for people working in a particular field. The primary audience for Scholarly publications are other scholars and practitioners in the same field as the authors.


Article
Length

Sensational periodical articles are usually short. Popular periodicals articles tend to be short. Substantive News & General Interest periodicals tend to have short and medium length articles. Trade & Technical periodicals tend to have short and medium length articles. Scholarly periodicals tend to have medium to long articles.
Citations Sensational periodical articles ordinarily do not cite their sources. Articles in Popular publications usually cite sources in their text, if at all. Articles in Substantive News & General Interest periodicals are authored by staff or free-lance writers. Articles in Trade and Technical periodicals usually cite their sources in the text and may provide full citations in a bibliography. Scholarly articles provide full citations to their sources, with footnotes or in-text references & a bibliography. These are often extensive.
Authors Sensational periodical articles are written by staff writers. Articles in Popular periodicals are authored by staff or free-lance writers. Articles in Substantive News & General Interest periodicals are authored by staff or free-lance writers. Articles in Trade & Technical periodicals are usually authored by staff or freelance writers who have worked or are currently working in the field. Articles in Scholarly publications are written by scholars or researchers in the field.
Purpose The purpose of sensational periodical articles is to provide entertainment. The purpose of Popular periodical articles is to provide entertainment. The purpose of Substantive News & General Interest Periodicals is to provide general information. Trade & Technical periodicals provide news & other items (like job ads) for people working in a particular field. Trade & Technical periodicals provide news & other items (like job ads) for people working in a particular field.
Publishers Sensational periodicals are published by commercial enterprises. Popular periodicals are published by commercial enterprises. Substantive News and General Interest Periodicals are usually published by commercial enterprises. Trade & Technical periodicals are often published by professional or trade associations. Scholarly publications are often published by professional, trade, or research organizations, or by commercial enterprises.
Primary /
Secondary
Source
Sensational periodical articles tend to be secondary sources Articles in Popular periodicals tend to be secondary sources. Substantive News & General Interest Periodical articles tend to be secondary sources. Trade & Technical periodicals articles tend to be secondary sources. Scholarly articles reporting original research are primary sources.
Updated by Tara Severns 04/18/19
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