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FAQs about Periodicals (Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers)   Tags: hot topics, journal, peer reviewed, peer-reviewed, periodicals, research, scholarly  

This was written to answer common questions about periodicals: such as what is a peer-reviewed/scholarly journal, and what is a reliable resource? This may also help if you have questions regarding the nature of popular versus scholarly periodicals.
Last Updated: Aug 23, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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FAQs about Periodicals (Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers).

    What is a periodical?

A periodical is defined as any item published regularly, whether on a daily, weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly schedule.  Examples of periodicals are newspapers, magazines, and journals.

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     What does the term "peer-reviewed" journal mean?  What is a "scholarly journal?"

A "peer-reviewed' or "scholarly" journal means that other professionals within that same field have reviewed a potential article to be printed in the desired journal, and made sure that everything is valid, up-to-date, correct, no false information, etc., and if everything checks out, then it will be published.

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    Why are journals so important in doing research?

Professionals and scholars need a reliable source for the newest ideas, latest research findings, and current debates and to share practical experiences in their field, whether that field is psychology, science, medicine, computer science, agriculture, business, history, or literature.  Because they are published frequently, journals are a major way to communicate this information quickly to large numbers of people in the same field.

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    I've read magazines before, but I'm nor sure about journals.  What are the differences between magazines and journals?

The basic difference between a magazine and a journal is that a magazine is designed for general readers who are interested in a subject, whether or not they have ever studied it.  Magazines are sold in grocery stores, newsstands, and mall bookstores.  By contrast, a journal is designed for professionals or scholars in a particular field.  Journal subscriptions are often included in the annual dues paid to professional organizations.

The title of a periodical is sometimes, but not always, an indicator of whether it is a magazine or a journal.  For example, Journal of the American Medical Association is a journal, but Ladies' Home Journal is a magazine.

There are several points you can check to determine whether the periodical you are reading is a magazine or a journal.





General readers

Professional or scholars


Journalists or staff writers; articles may be unsigned

Professionals or scholars who list their degrees and where they work


Full-time editorial staff

Professionals or scholars who work in the field but also serve as consulting editors or on the editorial board

Writing style

Simple vocabulary and sentences

Technical jargon and complex sentences


Color photographs and advertisements; colorful covers

Charts, graphs, tables; often plain covers

Footnotes or references

Rare; if used, list will be short

Used often; tend to be lengthly

Indexes (lists of articles by subject)

May be included in general indexes (e.g., Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature)

Included in specialized indexes (e.g., Social Science Index)

Journals have different kinds of articles in each issue.  Literature reviews summarize past research and theories in a field.  Book reviews describe new books and comment on their usefulness to professionals and scholars.  Journals may also contain news articles about the activities or meetings of the professional association.

Empirical research reports are articles based on experiments or observations.  They follow a fairly standard format based on the steps involved in the research process.  Often these parts appear as subheadings in bold or italic type.

Reports of empirical research generally have:

  • An abstract or summary
  • An introduction containing background information or a summary of past research
  • An explanation of the method (how the experiment was conducted)
  • Results (what happened during the experiment)
  • Discussion (conclusions, implications of the results, suggestions for further research)
  • References (other articles the authors read before conducting their own study)

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    Why are these sections found in empirical research articles?

Somewhere in each journal you will find "Instructions to Authors" or "Notes to Contributors."  If you want to submit an article for publication in a professional journal, you must carefully follow these instructions on spacing, margins, type size, etc.  Major psychology journals will specify that manuscripts must be prepared according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (also called the APA Manual).

The American Psychological Association (APA) has published guidelines for writing journal articles since 1929.  Why?  In 1994 alone, some 6,000 articles were submitted for publication in the 24 primary APA journals, but only about 1,400 were actually published.  Every article submitted is first reviewed by a panel of other psychology scholars, who do not know who wrote the articles, to assure that only useful, accurate research is printed.  This process is called peer review.  Without the standard format and guidelines of the manual, it would be too costly and time-consuming to review thousands of differently arranged manuscripts, select the best for publication, and then work with the authors to edit the articles so readers can easily locate, compare, and repeat the research to verify the results.  Such verification is essential in all research to prove that experimental results are not a fluke or, worse, a hoax.

Copies of the APA Manual are kept on reserve behind the Circulation Desk in the LRC.  These copies are for use in the LRC only.

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    I'm taking a class online.  How can I find an article from a journal using my computer?

The best way to access journals from off campus is through the link labeled Databases.  You will need a username and password for off-campus use when you try to access the databases.  You can access that information from your student email and/or from Blackboard.  If you need help, please call the reference desk at 903-434-8152 or the general phone number at 903-434-8151, during regular LRC hours.  You may ask for Heather Shaw, or Ron Bowden.

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    Can I find a journal article on the Internet?

In a word: "Maybe."

There are some electronic journals (ejournals) that are published only on the Internet and not in a print format.  Some of these journals may not be as selective in what they publish as the long-established APA journals because they do not conduct peer-review of articles submitted for publication.

Sometimes you can find an article or two on the Web site for a major print journal.  These are "teasers" to encourage you to subscribe to the journal.  Sometimes there is only a table of contents for the last one or two issues.  Remember, these folks make money by selling subscriptions (the LRC subscribes to some that cost over $400 per year), and they are not interested in giving articles away for free.

Beware of "fake" research on the Internet!  It is our there and not always easy to distinguish from the real thing.  Here is an example of fake research. Again, there are checkpoints to look for that may help you decide whether an Internet article represents legitimate research.



Domain name (top-level)

What kind of group sponsors the site?

.com (business or other commercial enterprise)

.edu (college, university or related institution)

.gov (U.S. government agency)

.us (U.S. state or local government agency; includes K-12 schools and many community colleges)

.mil (military or related agency)

.org (nonprofit organization)

.net (Internet service provider; may also be commercial- or nonprofit-related)

.ca (countries outside the United States use two letters: .ca for Canada, .fr for France, etc.


If no authors are listed, is the organization a professional one?

If individual authors are listed, does it list valid professional information such as degrees, where they work, etc.?


Is the Web site from a well-known organization?

When was the Web site posted?  Check the copyright date, usually at bottom of home page

When was the page last updated?


Look for the standard parts of an empirical research report as described earlier


Does the topic seem to be an appropriate question for research?

Look at the bibliography or reference list.  Do the journal names, authors, etc. look valid?

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