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BCS: Scientific Literature: Library Tutorial: Identifying a Scholarly Journal

This guide provides step-by-step instructions for scientific research using Long Library resources.

Scholarly Journals

The terms, "scholarly", "academic", and "peer-reviewed" are all used to describe articles reporting on current research in a specific discipline or field of study.

Articles published in peer-reviewed journals are reviewed by experts in the same field of study (scientists, professors, etc.), thus the term "peer-reviewed." The process of getting an article published in a peer-reviewed journal is rigorous and competitive, usually requiring several rounds of editing and re-submission,  therefore, an article published in these journals can be considered reliable, or authoritative.

Video: Peer Review in 5 Minutes

Types of Periodicals

Periodicals are publications that are issued on a regular, or periodic, interval.  Periodicals can be excellent sources of concise, focused articles on current events and social issues.  Articles in periodicals typically address a very specific aspect of a larger topic.

Different types of periodicals are suitable for different types of information, and are published at different intervals.

  • Newspapers cover news events, including local, state, national, and world news, and are published daily or weekly.
  • Magazines feature articles related to popular culture and social issues, and may be published weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
  • Journals provide scholarly research or topics related to specific professions, and may be published montly, bi-monthly. or several times a year.
  • Trade Journals feature news and practical information related to specific professions or occupations, and may be published weekly or monthly.

This chart outlines characteristics to help distinguish among types of periodicals:

Magazines and Newspapers Scholarly Journals Trade Journals
Authors Reporters, journalists Researchers, scholars in the field Professionals in the field
Purpose Entertain, persuade, inform Disseminate research, educate, communicate Share information in the field
Audience General public Researchers, experts, students in the field Professionals and students in the field

Writing Style & Vocabulary

Simple, easy-to-read, writing and vocabulary

Sophisticated, high-level writing

Technical, discipline-specific vocabulary

Readable by general population

Vocabulary specific to profession

Sources Not cited Cited with footnotes or bibliography Generally not cited as scholarly journals are, but references may be given
Advertising Extensive Announcements for conferences, publications in the field Specific to products and services in the profession
Graphics Usually photographs accompany articles Charts, tables, statistical data to support articles Photographs, charts, data
Publishers Commercial, for-profit Professional society, university, or non-profit organization Professional or trade organization, non-profit organization
Is it Refereed or Peer-reviewed? No Yes, articles must meet rigorous standards and be reviewed by a panel of experts before being accepted for publication Not a peer-review process, but articles are checked for accuracy before publication



Sports Illustrated

New York Times


Reading Research Quarterly

Journal of Marriage and the Family

Modern Fiction Studies

New England Journal of Medicine

Advertising Age

Law and Order

Phi Delta Kappan