Periodicals are published "periodically." That means daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly and include newspapers, magazines, trade publications and journals. Your instructors may ask you to use a wide variety of sources to complete an assignment, some of them may require that you use academic (sometimes referred to as scholarly) sources only.
Also referred to as "scholarly journals," contain articles written by professionals in a field. The articles are usually research oriented and often contain original research. In the sciences and social sciences they are often illustrated with tables or graphs. These articles will have a list of references at the end. Articles submitted to an academic journal are frequently put through the peer-review process, meaning that other experts on the topic read and suggest revisions to the author(s) before the final version is accepted for publication.
Popular magazines are not as in-depth as academic sources. The magazine may focus on a particular area of interest, Parenting, for example is devoted to raising children and Time focuses on news, but the articles are intended as general interest, instead of being geared toward scholars or professionals. Authors may or may not be names, there may be illustrations or charts, but it is rare for these articles to include a bibliography at the end.
Like magazines, newspapers are geared toward general, rather than scholarly, audiences. Newspapers can be published daily, weekly, or monthly. News articles usually contain credible, factual information, but editorials published in newspapers focus more on commentary or opinion. Newspapers may have a viewpoint that echoes their publisher or the audience they serve, this may be noticeable when you "read between the lines."
Trade publications contain articles pertaining to specific industries and are of interest to people working in those fields. For instance, HR Focus examines issues, practices, and products related to the human resources industry. Trade publication articles tend to be informative and highlight new developments or best practices in an industry.
Periodical Comparison Chart
Types of Journals
|Examples||Plain Dealer, Wall Street Journal||Newsweek, Psychology Today, Billboard||The New Republic, The Animal's Agenda||Crystal Engineering, New England Journal of Medicine||Journal of the American Library Association, Publisher's Weekly|
|General readership - news, opinions, text of speeches, local interest||Overviews, non-technical language, advertisments||Journal has specific agenda written to appeal to like-minded readers||Professional readership - research, analysis, technical vocabulary||Journal of association or trade organization meant for people in that field|
|Authorship||By-line for important staff writers, often no author named, no credentials given||By-line for important staff writers, often no author named, no credentials given||Featured writers have by-line, staff writers often not named, no credentials given||All contributing authors named with their degrees and sponsoring institution||Varies - some name authors and their credentials, others not|
|Articles often do not refer to sources||No bibliography, articles may refer to other sources||No bibliography, articles may refer to other sources||Extensive bibliography, footnotes in text, article often begins with literature review||Varies from journal to journal|
|Standards set by newspaper editors and owners||Staff editors, no peer or expert review||Staff editors, no peer or expert review||Articles "peer reviewed" for accuracy by other experts||Staff editors, no peer or expert review|
|Length||Brief overview articles or follow-up columns||Short overview articles meant as starting point for readers||Short articles supporting journal's agenda||Comprehensive papers outlining original research or new synthesis of previous research||Shorter overview articles applying to specific topics in trade|
|Special Features||Photographs, some charts, maps etc.||Advertisements, photographs, illustrations, maps etc.||Advertisements, photographs, illustrations, maps etc.||Tables, graphs, charts, maps, illustrations to support text||Advertisements, photographs, illustrations|
|Structure||No consistent format for articles||No specific structure unless written by featured writer||No specific structure unless written by featured writer||Structured, beginning with abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography||No specific structure unless written by featured writer|
In addition to recognizing source types, it is important to be able to evaluate the sources you use. Below is a list of criteria you can use to determine if the source you've selected meets your research needs.
What time of source did you select, that is, an academic journal, magazine article, trade article, or newspaper? Does the source give you the "big picture" or does it focus on a more specific aspect of it? What information does the source add to your understanding of the topic you are researching?
When was the article published? Would that date of publication be current enough to provide up-to-date information? How might the date of publication impact the value of the information in the source?
Is the individual or group responsible for the information qualified to provide that information? What are their qualifications? Do they have credentials, such as advanced degrees? Are they affiliated with any particular organization?
For whom did the author or organization produce the source (students, general public, scholars, professionals, etc.)? Are the level, tone, and presentation of the material appropriate for your needs?
Information can be produced to sell something, entertain, inform, advocate, argue, and so on. In some cases it may even be created for malicious purposes. Being aware of the purpose off the information you're reviewing is a good way to begin to determine its bias and reliability.
Does the source contain references to support statements and/or statistical information? Are the references relevant to the topic? If the source is a webpage or web document, do the links appear to be related to the topic? Is there bias or does the source appear to be neutral? If it is biased, does it exhibit an extreme level of bias?
The availability of information impacts ifs potential usefulness. Is the information available for free or is there a fee? Is it available to the general public or is a login required? If the source is a website, is it difficult to use for some reason (i.e., congested with text and graphics, no clear navigation, requires special software downloads)?