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How do I know if a source is from a trade / professional publication?
Trade or professional sources are written for an audience of professionals in the field. They may resemble scholarly journal articles or popular magazine / newspaper articles. Some library databases will include scholarly, popular, and trade sources, so you'll want to be able to tell the difference between the three.
Do not include original research
Trade / professional sources focus on applying research to practical, professional situations (e.g. an article discussing how teachers can apply the latest research on learning theories to their teaching).
Specialized knowledge is required and/or assumed
The articles may be easier to read than scholarly articles--they are written to provide news and interest stories to people in a specific profession--but they are intended to be read by a specialized audience.
Specialized vocabularly (jargon) is used without explanation or definition
It is assumed that anyone reading a trade publication will be a member of the profession, and will therefore understand any jargon used.
Pictures are common, and are used in a decorative sense
Images are used to entice the reader and/or to make the article (and its content) more appealing.
Advertisements are (often) prominent
Many trade / professional publications are funded through advertising. Advertisements will be specialized, and targeted to the publication's audience (e.g. math manipulatives in a publication for elementary school teachers).
Bibliographies may or may not be included
The inclusion of a bibliography or works cited depends on the individual publication (and the profession of its readers).
In-text citations / endnotes / footnotes are not used consistently
Again, the inclusion of in-text citations / endnotes / footnotes depends on the individual publication (and the profession of its readers).
When would I want to use a trade/professional journal?
When you want to find information about practical application of an idea within a profession.
Trade / professional articles do not contain original research, but focus on applying research to real life situations (e.g. an article discussing how teachers can apply the latest research on learning theories to their teaching)
When you need business information.
Trade / professional sources are written for professionals who are actively engaged in the subject / field, and contain current news items, industry specific regulatory information, articles on new techniqoes/trends, patents, etc.
When you need to see what the most important or current issues are in a profession.
The assumed audience is made up of professionals who have expertise in the subject
Test: Trade 1
Explore the image below -- mouseover the targets to learn more about the anatomy of a trade publication. This example uses an article from a trade journal, but the characteristics discussed also apply to some magazines, and newspapers.
Callari, James J. "Making Old Bags New Again." Plastics Technology (2012): 36-41. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.