I feel a little bit ashamed, but I have never understood the difference between transactions and journals. This question is quite related. However, I could not find any clear differentiation.

For example, in my little field (software engineering) IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering is considered the top venue. However, there is not an IEEE journal on Software Engineering (or whatever name). To be honest, I have never seen any publisher on software engineering having both transactions and a journal on software engineering. This is also why I fail do differentiate them.

This is what IEEE writes at its FAQ page.

What is the difference between IEEE Journals, Transactions, Letters, and Magazines?

Journals, Transactions, and Letters are the primary means for publishing technical papers concerning original work in IEEE fields of interest. [..] The primary purpose of Journals, Transactions, and Letters is to disclose and provide a permanent archival record of original technical work that advances the state of the art or provides novel insights. Papers in Journals, Transactions, and Letters should be of lasting value to the professional as judged by the authors’ peers through a formal review process. [..]

The omitted part is about letters and magazines, so it is not related. Am I really missing it, or they do not really differentiate?

What is the difference?

  • 4
    I don't know the answer in the case of the IEEE, but in the case of the American Mathematical Society, all the following are journals, despite their various names: Journal of the AMS, Bulletin of the AMS, Proceedings of the AMS, Transactions of the AMS, Memoirs of the AMS. They differ in the type of articles published: Journal is the top tier journal, Bulletin publishes reviews, Memoirs publishes monographs, Proceedings publishes short papers, and Transactions the longer ones. Notices of the AMS is a magazine, publishing popular articles.
    – Kallus
    Nov 8, 2013 at 17:11
  • 2
    Also, what's the difference between a street and an avenue? There is a clear difference in Manhattan, but it's not inherent to the names.
    – Kallus
    Nov 8, 2013 at 17:15

5 Answers 5


Transactions used to have a very specific meaning. From the New Oxford American Dictionary:

published reports of proceedings at the meetings of a learned society

In this historical usage, it is synonymous to proceedings, i.e. it is a published report of a conference or a set of meetings. Many learned societies have transactions: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Transactions of the Faraday Society, Transactions of the AMS, etc.. Some other institutions use the term “proceedings”, e.g. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

These transactions or proceedings were separate from journals, which do not have to coincide with a conference or meeting. However, with time the customs changed, and many of these reputable publishing venues became independent from actual meetings or conferences. But, because they were reputable (and famous is some cases), the name remained.

  • 1
    I have seen some ACM Transactions that have started recently. For example ACM TIOT: tiot.acm.org. So, why are they not called journals?
    – Moh
    Jun 7, 2018 at 16:25

There is no difference.

In particular, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering is a journal, as are all the other IEEE Transactions.


From IEEE:

IEEE Transactions generally contain major manuscripts approximately 8 to 10 printed pages or 24 to 30 double-spaced pages.

IEEE Journals follow the same length criteria as Transactions, but often are focused on selected topics and more specialized areas of interest.

IEEE Letters are generally short papers of approximately three to four printed pages or nine double-spaced pages. "


For all practical purposes, there is not much of a difference between IEEE journals, transactions, and letters. On the IEEE website, they are all included under the broad category 'Journals and Magazines.' However, they publish different article types. While journals publish articles on more specific topics or specialized areas, transactions publish articles of a broader interest, while letters usually refer to short communications rather than full-fledged research articles.


As per my general understanding (not by any technical definitions), Transactions are more focused venue whereas Journals are broader in topic coverage.

I decide where to submit my manuscript based on this understanding.

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