A technical or trade journal is a publication that is targeted to people in a very specific industry. For people outside the industry, such a journal can seem boring or incomprehensible, while people in the industry use it to keep up on developments in the industry, connect with potential employers, and network with suppliers. Most industries have trade journals, with publications that cover huge industries like biotechnology to much smaller and specialized industries such as landscape architecture.
One of the defining features of a trade journal is a high volume of industry-specific advertising. In a teaching journal, for example, ads for products that are designed to help teachers may be widely scattered throughout the journal, sometimes taking the form of multiple page layouts which masquerade as articles. A publication also usually has notices of job openings, along with brief articles on leaders in the industry and recent developments that may be of interest.
By contrast, some industries also publish peer reviewed journals, which are collections of original research that has been evaluated by an independent panel of experts. The sciences boast a huge number of peer reviewed journals, allowing researchers to share their work with other people in the community and to solicit criticism. Sometimes the line between a trade and a peer reviewed journal may be slim, with some peer reviewed publications having a high percentage of advertising.
When researching a trade or industry, a trade journal can sometimes be a useful starting point, especially if the researcher has a glossary of trade terms handy. People who keep an eye on various industries often subscribe to these journals so that they are alerted to developments in the field; for example, researchers who study food politics and the food supply are often interested to learn about new preservation methods, food hybrids, or innovative approaches to marketing campaigns.
Because a trade journal is so specialized, such journals are usually not readily available at bookstores, newsstands, and other places that the average person might turn to for printed media. The best source is often the publisher or a professional association that caters to members of the industry. Some publishers will send out issues for free to people in the industry, or journalists who request them, and a subscription is often included with membership in a professional organization.