What are Scholarly Articles?

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What is a periodical?

The term periodical is a generic term that can include academic journals, popular magazines, professional journals, trade publications and newspapers. Periodicals are published on a regular basis, either daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. They offer news, opinion, commentary, scholarly analysis, literary criticism, and reports of research. They range from brief newsletters published by trade organizations to in-depth journals published by scientific societies and university presses. Most professors at the University level require that all or most of the periodical articles you use in writing research papers come from scholarly journals. This guide lists some comparative criteria that will help you determine if the publications you are using meets your assignment's requirements.

Types of periodicals

Popular periodicals (magazines)
These are the type of publications that you may subscribe to or purchase at the supermarket or bookstore. Articles from popular periodicals are usually not appropriate for assignments.
Scholarly periodicals (journals)
These are the type of publications that are not found in supermarkets or bookstores. The articles are serious in tone and the vocabulary can be difficult to understand.

Why use periodicals?

  • Periodicals are often the best source of information on new or current topics.
  • The subject may be too narrow for publication in a book.
  • Older periodicals contain historical information.
  • In many disciplines periodicals are the major means of communication.

Peer reviewed and Refereed

Peer reviewed
Articles in peer-reviewed journals must pass the scrutiny of reviewers who are experts in the field or on the research topic of the article. In most cases the reviewers do not know who the author of the article is. Not all information in a peer-reviewed journal is reviewed. Editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews, and other types of information don't count as articles.
Articles in refereed journals must be reviewed by scholars or experts in the research topic of the article who are not members of the board or editorial staff of the journal. Peer reviewed and referred journals are frequently used interchangeably.


Scholarly Journal

ExampleJAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
AudienceResearchers and experts in the subject area.
AuthorsResearchers and experts in the subject area. Names and credentials are provided.
FormatArticles often have: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography graphs, tables. Articles long.
LanguageTerminology, jargon and the language of the discipline covered; reader is assumed to have knowledge of the topic.
PurposeTo inform, to report, or to share original research, experimentation or scholarship with the rest of the scholarly community.
PublisherA professional organization, a university, or a scholarly press.
ReferencesReferences are always cited and should be expected. Frequently have extensive bibliographies.
Peer reviewReferences are always cited and should be expected. Frequently have extensive bibliographies.

General Interest

ExampleNational Geographic
AudienceEducated audience
AuthorsEditorial staff, scholars or free-lance writer. Credentials not provided.
FormatAttractive in appearance, heavily illustrated generally with photographs.
LanguageLanguage appropriate for an educated readership; does not emphasize a specialty but does assume a certain level of education.
PurposeTo provide general information to a wide, interested audience.
PublisherCommercial enterprises for profit; widely distributed.
ReferencesOccasionally cites sources.
Peer reviewEditorial board.

Popular Magazines

ExampleSports Illustrated
AudienceGeneral public
AuthorsStaff writer or a free-lance writer.
Credentials often not provided.
FormatSlick and glossy with an attractive format.
Articles are short, providing broad overview of the topic.
LanguageSlick and glossy with an attractive format.
Articles are short, providing broad overview of the topic.
PurposeTo entertain, persuade or inform the general public.
PublisherCommercial publisher. Published for profit and widely distributed.
ReferencesMay contain vague referrals to "a study published at" or "researchers have found" with no other details
Peer reviewNone. Article acceptance is based largely on the topic's consumer appeal.

Trade Publications

Criteria Trade Publications
ExampleAdvertising Age
AudienceAimed at people in the industry or organization.
AuthorsMembers of trade/profession.
FormatHeavily illustrated with tables, charts and photos.
LanguageLanguage of practitioners in the industry or profession; focuses on practical topics of interest to practitioners.
PurposeTo provide news and information to people in a particular industry or profession.
PublisherMost often published through a professional association.
ReferencesNot extensively documented, provide few footnotes, and rarely include bibliographies.
Peer reviewEditorial board.