Skip to Main Content

Introduction to Library Research

Begin here to start your research papers

What is a periodical? A periodical is anything that comes out periodically. Magazines, newspapers, and journals are all periodicals. They may come out daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, but new issues are released on a fixed schedule. While this legacy fades with the dominance of 24/7 production in the digital age, periodicity still plays an important role in scholarly publication.

Who is the audience? Magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and academic journals are intended for different audiences.


For the general reader. Magazines typically have advertisements for popular consumer products like cars, perfume, or electronics. They rely on editors to determine the suitability of contributed works, rather than a peer-review process. Magazine articles are written by journalists or contributing writers, and they do not have to cite sources.


For the general reader. Newspaper articles are written by journalists, but may reflect reporting, investigative reporting, or opinion. While newspapers may be focused on authoritative and quality news reporting, journalists rely on different types of evidence than scholars. They do not necessarily have to cite sources, but some do.

Trade Journals

These are specifically created for particular professions, or trades. They also have advertisements directed to that profession. For example, a trade journal for dentists may advertise and discuss new dental technologies.

Scholarly/Academic Journal

Most scholarship is produced by professors and experts outside of academia. Scholarly journals depend on the peer review process to determine the suitability of submitted work. Academic articles can be original research or analysis, and all include citations. Most scholarly publications will not have advertising. If there's an ad on the page it is probably not scholarly.


Peer – Review

An editorial process most scholarly works go through. Other professionals working in the same field (peers) evaluate works to ensure quality, credibility, and accuracy.


Distinguishing content on the internet: The stylistic cues that make it relatively easy to distinguish different types of content vanish when presented on the web. It's easy to tell the difference between an analog newspaper and scholarly journal. They look and feel very different from each other. When using information from the internet it is important to develop the skills to critically analyze the information you're presented with, rather than rely on stylistic cues to determine the quality of information you're consuming.

How to Tell if an Article is Peer Reviewed

Smortarboard icon ome databases will have indicators to let you know if your source is peer-reviewed. ProQuest, for example, uses a mortarboard icon to indicate if an article is from an academic journal.

Search Ulrichsweb to check if a journal is peer-reviewed. The term they use for peer-reviewed is 'refereed' that is designated by this symbol:

The Peer Review Process 

Scholars produce research, write articles (also called a manuscripts) about their research, and then send their work to a scholarly journal. The editor (or editors) of that journal remove the name from the manuscript and sends it to experts in the field to review. Since the person(s) submitting the paper or article is also an expert, these other experts are peers; hence the name 'peer-reviewed.' These peers read the manuscript and recommend to the editor whether the article contributes significantly to the body of knowledge. If they approve the article, it gets published. If they do not, it is rejected. Sometimes it is close but needs more evidence, and the authors are asked to revise and resubmit. .

The process is kept anonymous so articles are not accepted or rejected based on personal likes or dislikes. The peer reviewers are to focus solely on the quality of the research and argument presented in the article submitted for publication.

The peer review process isn't perfect, but it's the best way scientists, scholars, and other researchers have developed to ensure high-quality information. This is why your professors often ask you to focus on peer-reviewed literature. This is typically the most rigorous and highest quality research available.

Video: Scholarly Vs. Non-Scholarly Sources

Check out this video from Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Libraries on the differences between scholarly and non-scholarly sources.

Here is a handout which may help you distinguish academic/scholarly journals from popular magazines.

Macdonald-Kelce Library - The University of Tampa - 401 W. Kennedy Blvd. - Tampa, FL 33606 - 813 257-3056 - - Accessibility