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Evaluating Periodicals: Home

This guide describes the differences in scholarly journal articles, popular magazines, newspaper articles, and trade publications.

About

Periodicals are publications that are published at regular intervals; examples of periodicals are journals, magazines, and newspapers.  Periodicals are important sources for up-to-date information in all subjects. This guide describes the differences in the following types of periodical publications:

  • Scholarly Journals
  • Popular and Sensational Magazines
  • News and Commentary
  • Trade Publications

Image: Kelsey Gallagher Mambach, 2024 for UCNJ Libraries

Catalog

There are three ways to find periodicals from the UCNJ Libraries' collection!  From the library homepage:

1. Do a basic catalog search from the middle search bar (linked here):

2. Select eJournals, under "Quick Links", on the left hand side.  Here, you can limit your periodical publications by discipline, and then you will find an A-Z list of publications.  If you know the name of the publication, or have keywords ready, you can continue to utilize the search bar from this page as well.

3. Select databases, under "Quick Links", on the left hand side.  Here, you can limit your database by subject.  Make sure to read the description under the link before selecting a database.

Video Tutorials from UCNJ Libraries

Check out the UCNJ Libraries' YouTube page for video tutorials about locating scholarly articles and more!  You can access videos by selecting from the "Library Video Tutorials" on the left side of the library homepage, or navigate directly to our YouTube playlist, "UCNJ Union College LibraryServices," on the "UCNJ - OWL TV Union College of Union County NJ" channel.

Some Definitions - Authors

  • Journalists are rarely experts in the field they write in - except for being a journalist.  A Journalist may have a college degree in journalism, or may get by based on their journalistic merits and skill.  For writing to be considered "journalism," the author should not have any vested interest in the topic they are writing on.  A journalist is required and expected to report if there is a "conflict of interest" with a story they are writing on.
  • An expert is exactly what it sounds like - someone who is extremely knowledgable in their field, with accolades to prove so.  Experts favor analysis and utilize a passive voice.  A publication written by an expert should be expected to have references and attribution throughout the piece in the form of in-text citations or footnotes.

  • Example: the author of a scholarly article on climate change would typically be a Climate Scientist, whereas a journalist who is writing about climate change for a magazine does not have to have a background in climate science to do so.  Both journalists and expert authors conduct research for their publications, but experts lean more on in-depth discussion, while journalists often include their opinion and findings from their own investigations.

Parts of a Periodical Citation

Here are the elements of a periodical citation that differ from other sources.  Be on the lookout for these elements in a citation when assessing a bibliography for sources:

  • Two titles - The periodical title and the article title.
  • Volume and issue number - Volumes are associated with time frame (year, season); issue numbers correspond to each publication within the volume range.
  • Pagination - Newspaper articles only cover a certain range of pages.  Newspaper pages may be out of order due to the way these periodicals are printed.

Resources from Other Libraries

How to Evaluate Periodicals

Evaluating sources is a key aspect of information literacy - along with locating, organizing, using, and communicating the information in a source.  Evaluating periodicals is a skill in itself, but holds transferrable skills that will help you evaluate things like books and eBooks.  When evaluating a periodical, you must first ask yourself a few questions:

1. Who is the author?

  • Do you have any prior information about this person or group? If not, research some biographical information before reading their work.
  • Is this person an expert in their field? Where do they work? What are their past works?

2. Who is the publisher?

  • What are some other publications this publisher has worked with?
  • Is the publisher a trade publisher, scholarly publisher, small press, entertainment company, etc.?

3. What is the date of publication?

  • The date, volume and issue, or edition should be clearly stated. 
  • If a publication is older than five years, you need to evaluate more closely than if it were a newer publication.
  • What is the frequency of publications with this periodical?
  • Online articles: what is the frequency this database loads articles from print sources?

4. What kind of pagination is there in this periodical?

  • Does the publication include: an index, appendices, illustrations, bibliographies (works cited/references)?

Presentation from Prince George's Community College Library

Some Definitions - Sources

  • Scholarly Journals (also called "peer-reviewed journals" and "academic journals") contain articles that are based on research.  The authors of journal articles are scholars and experts in the field they are publishing in.  Most - though not all - journals require a peer-review process before the final publication.  Journal articles are typically longer than a magazine article, more in-depth, and may contain graphs and tables to support the author(s)' research.  A scholarly article concludes with a bibliography (works cited/references) of sources that have been referenced throughout the work.
  • Magazines contain up-to-date information, but that information does not go under as much scrutiny as a scholarly journal article.  Magazine articles are not based on in-depth research, and are mainly used for light entertainment purposes.  Instead of charts and graphs, magazines tend to have color photographs.  A magazine will have many advertisements, whereas a scholarly journal will have very few, if any.  Magazine articles are written by journalists, not experts - and may sometimes lack an author credit entirely.

  • Newspapers are typically the most current periodical source, because they are published daily or weekly.  Newspapers report on events as they occur and takes information from research (though less in-depth than a scholarly journal), opinions, and eye witness accounts.  Newspaper journalists will often make assumptions on their own, or investigate in unofficial capacities.  Many newspapers focus the bulk of their articles from local perspectives, whether that be city/town, county, or state.  Some newspapers may have a "worldwide" section or only focus on world news.
  • Trade Publications are periodicals that contain sources for current trends in specific disciplines, and discuss news about marketing campaigns, products, brands, agencies, and other topics of interest for members of a particular profession.  These publications may include letters to the editor, photo essays, editorials, and advertisements that specifically target the members of the publication's discipline - whereas magazine advertisements do not target their readers as much.

Search Limiters/Filters

In the UCNJ Libraries’ catalog and databases, you can often limit your results with certain filters.  Here are three filters that are important to know when locating and accessing periodicals:

  • Citation - sometimes a periodical record in a library database or on the web will only include the citation.  This is the bibliographic information that helps you find the full text article - not the article in its entirety.  Sometimes, it is helpful to turn this filter on when trying to locate items on the web.  This way, you can utilize the citation when searching a library database or digital repository to find the article in full.
  • Abstract - an abstract is a summary of an article.  Read the abstract to find out what is to come within the article, before dedicating time to reading it.  Though, unlike a typical summary, an abstract often reports on the findings and conclusion of the research being discussed.  If an abstract is available, it can save a lot of time and evaluating in a research process to read it before the actual article.  You may find that even though this article showed up in your search results, it has minor (or major!) differences from the information you actually need.
  • Full-text - a “full-text article” contains all of the elements of a scholarly journal article: title page, abstract, body, conclusion, and bibliography (works cited/references).  If available, select “full-text” from the filters in a library database or digital repository before performing your search.  If an article is not available in full-text from a specific database, digital repository, or on the open web - try the same search in another resource.  Utilize the citation for searching.

Subject Librarian

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Kelsey Gallagher
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1033 Springfield Avenue
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908.709.7507

Google Scholar

Google Scholar can help you locate scholarly literature on the open internet.  After your search, look on the right side of the results for "Union CC has it."  Instead of clicking on the article title, select "Union CC has it" and you will be directed to the same source, but through our Library resources, instead of the Google Scholar platform.

Google Scholar Search
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