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Is It a Scholarly Journal or Not?

Periodicals, including journals, magazines, and newspapers, are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines. With a periodical collection as large and diverse as the Salmon Library's, it is often difficult to distinguish between the various levels of scholarship found in the print and electronic collection. In this guide we have divided the criteria for periodical literature into four categories:

1. Scholarly
2. Substantive News / General Interest
3. Popular
4. Sensational

Reference Resources


Scholarly journals are concerned with academic study, especially research. They always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Scholarly journals focus on reports of original research or experimentation in a specific academic discipline. Written by scholars in the field, scholarly journals assume the reader's familiarity with the language, terms, and methods in that subject. The journals are serious in appearance with little or no advertising. While the articles may contain graphs, maps, or charts, they rarely contain illustrations or photographs.

Sources used in the article always offer the research citations used, either in footnotes or bibliographies. Most articles are reviewed by other scholars in that field before publication. Often they are published by scholarly or professional organizations.

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

• American Economic Review
• Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
• JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
• Journal of Marriage and the Family
• Modern Fiction Studies
• Sex Roles: A Journal of Research

Most online databases allow a researcher to limit searches to academic or scholarly journal articles. The phrasing for this limit varies according to the database used. The terms found most often in the databases are: peer-reviewed, scholarly, or refereed.

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Substantive News / General Interest

These periodicals or magazines provide information to a broad audience interested in a particular field or subject. They may be quite attractive in appearance, although some are in newspaper format. Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs. News and general interest periodicals sometimes cite sources, although usually they do not. A member of the editorial staff, a scholar or a free lance writer may write the articles.

Because the purpose of these publications is to provide information to a broad, but educated audience, the language is less scholarly than the scholarly journals. Commercial enterprises or individuals generally publish these periodicals, but a professional or trade organization may also sponsor their publication.

Sources of the research used may be mentioned in the text, but the articles may not necessarily include footnotes or bibliographies. These periodicals often include advertising.

Examples of Substantive News / General Interest Periodicals:

• Christian Science Monitor
• Economist
• National Geographic
• New York Times
• Scientific American
• Vital Speeches of the Day

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Most academic libraries do not carry many of these magazines. Popular periodicals are published to entertain and to meet the interests of a general audience. The cover and pages of these magazines are usually glossy and attractive. The articles are short and written for a minimal educational level. The articles are not cited and the information in them may be second or third hand. Lots of color illustrations and photographs are used. Advertising is heavy, because they are commercially published. As a result of the commercial marketing, they may promote the owners' or advertisers' viewpoint or agenda.

Examples of Popular Periodicals:

• Ebony
• Parents
• People Weekly
• Readers Digest
• Sports Illustrated
• Time
• Vogue

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Sensational periodicals come in a variety of styles. Written at an elementary level, they assume a certain gullibility in their audience. Flashy headlines and sensational photographs are used to arouse readers' interest. They are designed to appeal to popular curiosity, fear, and superstition. Neither academic nor public libraries carry these periodicals.

Examples of Sensational Periodicals:

• Globe
• National Examiner
• Star
• Weekly World News

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Reference Resources

The Salmon Library has several reference books and online resources that describe and evaluate periodicals. An excellent resource is by Katz, Magazines for Libraries, located in Reference at AP1 .A05 K32 2000. It provides an annotated listing by subject of some 6,500 periodicals. Each entry gives the name of the periodical, its beginning publication date, publisher, editor, address, price etc. Short abstracts describe the scope, political slant, and other aspects of the publication. To find an individual title, use the title index at the end of the volume. Try using the Standard Periodical Directory as well. (AP2.45 .S78 2004).

Urlich's Periodical Directory is available under Online Databases on the library's homepage .It offers brief descriptions of periodical titles. The 2002 print edition is available in the library on N2.

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22-Feb-2006 Last Revision


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