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HOW TO: Use Articles for Research: What's a Scholarly Journal?

This guide provides suggestions for how to better understand and use articles in scholarly journals.

Types of Periodicals

Periodicals are publications that are issued on a regular (or periodic) interval, and they 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 monthly, 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.

The Peer-Review Process

Scholarly journals, academic journals, professional journals, and peer-reviewed journals generally feature articles reporting current research in a specific discipline or field of study.  However, not all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed journals.  Some scholarly journals require that articles go through a peer-review process before being accepted for publication.

Peer-review implies that articles are reviewed by a panel of experts (peers) in a field of study to ensure that research is accurate and original, and that comparable results could be achieved if the experiment or study were to be carried out again.

Click here to view a video about peer reviewed journals. (video created by North Carolina State University Libraries)


Identifying Types of Periodicals

Use this chart 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 Publish research, educate, & communicate Share information in the field
Audience General public Researchers, experts, & students in the field Professionals & students in the field

Writing Style & Vocabulary

Simple, easy-to-read, writing & vocabulary

Sophisticated, formal 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 & 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 & 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