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Identify Scholarly Journals and other Periodicals

Some Definitions:  A “periodical” is any publication that is published on a regular or periodic basis.  Periodicals include journals, magazines, and newspapers, and are sometimes called “serials”.  Periodicals may be grouped into the following broad categories:

Scholarly or Academic or Peer Reviewed Journals
The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on and disseminate original research or experimentation.  The language of scholarly journals is that of the discipline. It assumes some scholarly background on the part of the reader.  Authors are usually affiliated with research institutions like universities or government agencies, although in the sciences some authors may be employed by private industry.  Many scholarly journals are published by scholarly or academic associations.

Articles published in scholarly journals go through a formal peer review process and authors always cite their sources in a list of references, a bibliography, endnotes or footnotes.

Professional or Trade Journals
The purpose of these journals is to inform members of an industry or profession through the publication of professional content that may combine fact, anecdote or opinion.  Readers require some professional or industry vocabulary.   Authors may or may not have an academic affiliation, but they will have expertise in the area in which they are writing.  These publications are usually colourful and have advertising geared toward the profession. They are published by trade or professional organizations.

Articles published in professional or trade journals are not peer reviewed, though editors may invite submissions from known experts.  Authors will rarely cite their sources.

The goal of magazines is to entertain and inform.  Authors are often professional writers rather than scholars or industry experts.  The content may be factual, but may also be biased by editorial or publishing policy.  Language should be easy to understand by all readers.  Magazines are colourful, and have many pictures and advertisements.

Magazines are not peer reviewed and authors almost never cite their sources.

Publication Differences: summary table

Infographic highlighting key differences between scholarly and non-scholarly articles.

Summary table of the differences between scholarly (peer reviewed) journals, professional/trade journals, and magazines.

Magazines Professional Journals Scholarly Journals
Purpose/Intent Inform, entertain Professional development

Original research

Advance knowledge

Scope General, public interest Practical information In-depth

Easy language

Colourful, with ads

Some professional vocabulary

Fact, opinions, personal experience

Vocabulary of discipline

Very structured

Author Professional writers Private experts or professional researchers Professional researchers
Supported by Facts, but may be biased

Limited research

Professional knowledge

Prior research


Peer Review







Published by

Commercial publishers, industry, individuals

Trade or professional organizations Scholarly/academic associations


Peer Review Process

libnscu (2014, May 1). Peer review in 3 minutes. [Video file]. Retrieved from

A transcript is available on the video's YouTube page.


What is peer review?

  • A method of evaluating the quality of a research article or presentation prior to publication.  Peer reviewed journals are also called refereed journals.

  • The review is conducted by other experts in the field, or the professional equals of the researcher, hence the term “peer”.

  • Peer reviews are often “blind”: the reviewer doesn’t know the author and the author doesn’t know the reviewer.

  • Peer reviewers evaluate the originality and significance of the research question, the literature reviewed, the methodology and data analysis, and the organization and structure of the publication.
  • While you may not agree with an article published in a peer reviewed journal you can have confidence that the publishing standards of the discipline have been followed.

Locate a specific journal

Sometimes you may want to find out if the Mount subscribes to a particular journal online or in print, or you may know that a journal is online and you want to scan its table of contents. This is easy to do by clicking on the link below and entering the name of the journal into the search box:

What is the Impact Factor (IF) ?

The impact factor (IF) of an academic journal was devised by the Institute for Scientific Information (now part of Thomson Reuters), a leading indexer of science and social science journals, to compare different journals within a certain discipline. The higher the impact factor, the higher the journal's relative importance.

How is the IF calculated?  The 2013 impact factor of a journal is:

A.= the number of times that articles published in that journal in 2011 and 2012 were cited by articles in journals indexed by ISI during 2013.

B= the total number of articles, reviews, research notes (referred to as "citable items" ) published by that journal in 2011 and 2012.

The 2013 IF is A/B where A is the numerator and B is the denominator.

Impact factors are published in Journal Citation Reports and are often cited by the publishers of academic journals to establish the authority of their journal in the academic field.

Popular and Scholarly Sources: You Tube Video

SenecaLibraries (2013). Popular and scholarly sources [Video file]. Retrieved from

A transcript is available on the video's YouTube page.

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