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Research Basics: Types of Periodicals


It can be difficult to distinguish between the various types of periodicals when they are in electronic format. Luckily, many databases allow researchers to search or sort results by publication type.

On the search interface of the database, look for options to limit your results by scholarly journal, peer-reviewed journals, industry publications, or similar.

Academic Journals

Also known as scholarly, refereed, or peer-reviewed journals.

Appearance: Generally have a sober, serious look. May contain graphs and charts, but few glossy pages or photographs. Use scholarly language with vocabulary specific to their profession or field. 

Audience: Written for scholarly readers, academics, and students using the jargon of the field.

Author/Authority: Articles written by researchers or scholars in the field who report the results of original research; name and credentials always provided. Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (refereed or peer reviewed). 

Format/Structure: Articles usually include: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography.

Content: Includes scholarly research for a particular profession or industry. Articles usually contain an abstract, methodology, discussion, charts or tables, results, conclusions, and references.

Credits: A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes always provided to document research

Frequency: Usually published bimonthly or quarterly.

Length: Longer articles, providing in-depth analysis of topics



If you are not in the habit of reading scholarly journal articles, they can be difficult to read and understand. Jennifer Naff's Violent Methaphors blog offers some sound advice and an example.

General Interest Magazines

Appearance: Generally attractive and illustrated with color photographs, usually for advertising purposes.

Audience: Written in non-technical language for anyone to understand. 

Author/Authority: Articles written by staff or freelance writer, name and credentials often not provided. Articles are not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff. 

Content: Includes current events and special features.

Frequency: Usually published weekly or monthly.

Length: Shorter articles, providing broader overviews of topics.

Format/ Structure: Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure 

Credits: A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text.



Types of Periodicals Tutorial

Trade Magazines

Also known as industry magazines.

Appearance: Generally attractive and are often illustrated with color photographs.

Audience: Written for industry professionals.

Author/Authority: Articles written by staff writers, though the magazine may sometimes accept articles from industry professionals.

Citations: Occasionally list references at the end of the article or provide footnotes within the text.

Content: Includes current events and special features within a particular profession or industry.

Frequency: Usually published biweekly or monthly.




Appearance: Generally printed on newsprint in black ink.

Audience: Written for the general public.

Author/Authority: Articles written by staff writers and freelance journalists.

Citations: Will sometimes cite sources, a scholar, or a freelance writer.

Content: Includes current events and special features.

Frequency: Usually published daily or weekly.