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.SOURCES: Journals

Explains characteristics of different types of sources of information

Journal Definition

Journals  are a type of periodical.

Periodicals are publications that are published periodically, that is, daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc. These include magazines, newspapers, journals, and, more rarely, a few book series. Periodicals are sometimes referred to as serials.

The latest research is published in journals. Many journal articles cover specific, advanced topics. It can be difficult to find simple, basic information in journals. Nowadays, most journals have a web site that allows viewing of the table of contents and summaries of articles.

Journals are very important to the sciences. Most new research is published in a peer-reviewed journal rather than in a book. The peer review process adds credibility to the research as papers have been reviewed and approved by experts in the field. This does not eliminate all distribution of false theories or bad research but it helps to cull the herd.

In contrast, scholars in the humanities may publish their research in either a journal or a book.

Search Periodicals

To search for periodicals, you can find a periodical on the library shelves and browse the issues. However, it is easier to search a database containing information about the articles in your periodical.

Databases are very useful and efficient for searching through journals. Sometimes they include books and other sources. Every database follows different rules for searching and storage. Effective use depends on knowing those rules. Commercial databases commonly provide only summaries of articles and do not include full text. They can be very expensive.

Identifying Scholarly Material

The key difference between scholarly and non-scholarly publications is that scholarly publications include high quality content in articles that have been "peer-reviewed" by specialists. In library databases, scholarly journals may also be called peer-reviewed journals or academic journals.

When your professor does a research project, he writes a report about the research and sends it to a scholarly journal that other specialists will be reading. The editor of the journal sends the new submission to other specialists in the field to look at. They review the new article to see if it is good enough to publish in this journal. They look at the quality of the research experiment, among other things. This "peer-review" adds another level of validation and fact-checking to the article before it reaches you and me. This does not mean that "bad" articles don't get published but it helps to have other eyes who already know the discipline look over the article first.

Scholarly journals are publications intended for subject specialists as the audience. Because they have a limited audience and because the peer-review process is time-consuming, they are often expensive. They keep costs down by using few or no pictures and rarely use color. The covers are often simple and plain. The language is technical and specialized for other professionals. The language can be difficult to understand by non-specialists. They often include original research reports with a methodology and references. They often have unstimulating titles like Journal of Biology.

Popular magazines are written for the public. Because they have such a big audience, they can make a lot of money, which makes subscription costs lower. Issues often include glossy photos and eye-catching advertisements. They may have interesting titles like People, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, or Scientific American. Articles may be written by non-specialists (often journalists) who may or may not understand the subject matter well. Article topics are chosen to entertain and increase readership. Articles may cover research that has been done but are usually reports about research publications located in scholarly journals or interviews with the researcher. The articles are understandable by the non-specialist and can therefore be a valuable method to inform non-specialists.

Trade journals are a third category that fall between popular and scholarly journals. Trade journals are written by people in an industry for other people in that industry. For example, the oil industry has publications about the news, business, products, practices of its workers, which include scientists, salespeople, and other employees. Trade journals use color pictures and advertisements. The language may be more technical since they aren't specifically interested in the public as readers. Articles usually do not include references or abstracts.

Scholarly books are books that have undergone a peer-review process before publication. They are typically published by a professional organization or an academic press, such as Oxford University Press, Indiana University Press, etc.


Scholarly vs Popular Periodicals

Peabody Library's video Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

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