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Research 101: Periodicals

Information on the research process.


Periodicals are sources that are published on a regular basis. Magazines, trade journals, and academic journals are types of periodicals.

Periodicals are published more frequently than books and will have more up-to-date information. Magazines or popular periodicals are usually on a shorter publication schedule than journals or scholarly periodicals which have an extensive review process.

Articles in periodicals tend to be specific while books typically offer a broader treatment of a topic.

Popular and Scholarly Periodicals

Below are some identifying features of popular and scholarly periodicals. Note that sources occur on a popular/scholarly continuum. Some sources are clearly popular or scholarly while others have mixed features.  Determining a source's popular or scholarly orientation will help you evaluate its appropriateness for your research purpose. For example, using some popular sources may work for an introductory undergraduate project, while all scholarly sources may be required for more advanced work, especially in a student's major field of study.

Popular Periodicals--Magazines

Scholarly Periodicals---Academic Journals

Written by journalists

Written by experts in their field

Reviewed by an editorial staff

Often reviewed by peers within the discipline

Purpose to inform, persuade, or entertain

Purpose to present research findings, in-depth studies

General audience

More educated or professional audience

Language aimed at a general audience

May use vocabulary specific to the field

Tone varies (serious, humorous, satirical, etc.)

Tone serious

No bibliography or works cited

Bibliography or works cited for articles

Contain many photographs, illustrations, drawings

Few graphics, many charts and graphs

Extensive advertising

Selective advertising

Articles usually short (1-5 pages)

Articles usually longer

Examples: Time, Cosmopolitan, New Republic

Examples: Journal of Psychology, Comparative Literature, Journal of Political Marketing

Trade Journals

Trade Journals provide practical information for professionals to help them keep up-to-date in their field.

  • Authors vary--maybe experts in the field or journalists
  • Aimed at professionals in a field or the general public interested in the topic
  • Edited by an editorial staff who may be professionals in the field, articles not peer-reviewed
  • Provide shorter articles on industry information (news, trends, products)
  • May summarize research in the field but do not report original research or provide in-depth studies
  • Use terminology of the field but not as technical as scholarly journal articles
  • Photographs; some graphics and charts
  • Advertisements targeted to professionals in the field.
  • Occasional brief bibliographies, but not required.

Examples of trade journals:

  • Architectural Review
  • American Biology Teacher
  • Progressive Grocer

Examples of Periodical Articles in a Database

Off campus? You'll need your username and password to access the articles.

Off-Campus Access to Briggs Library

Peer Review of Scholarly Sources

Certain journals publish peer-reviewed articles. Before the editors of the journal publish an article they send the article out to scholars in the subject area for review. The scholars examine the article to make sure it reflects solid research in the field. If these reviewers have reservations about the article the journal may not publish the article or may require the author to make changes. This thorough editorial process results in highly-regarded scholarship.

Note that the terms refereed and vetted are also used to describe articles that have undergone this process.

Introduction to Peer Review

NEIU Library (1:23)

Peer Review in Three Minutes

NCSU Libraries (3:15)

Identifying Peer-Reviewed or Refereed Articles

Some databases have a peer-reviewed limiter that will limit your results to articles from peer-reviewed journals. Caution: Make sure your source is a research article; you may retrieve other types of articles, such as editorials, that are not peer-reviewed.

A journal's Web site will often indicate if publication is peer-reviewed.

Use, a database available from Briggs Library. Enter the journal's name in the search field. You'll see an icon resembling a referee's jersey by peer-reviewed or refereed publications.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

An electronic display from NCSU Libraries


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