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BIOL 10, Poffenroth: Understanding Periodicals

Types of Periodicals

Periodicals are usually divided into three groups: popular, scholarly, and trade. If you are able to recognize the differences between these types of periodicals, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of articles you need.

time magazine

Popular periodicals (like TIme Magazine pictured above) are magazines and newspapers. Newspaper articles are written by journalists and mainly provide information on current events.  They also contain opinion pieces (editorials and reviews).  Newspapers articles and editorials are not necessarily written by experts in the subject, however.  Most of the time, the same can be said for magazine articles, but magazine articles will usually be a bit more in-depth.  Because magazine articles are written for a general audience, the language and discussion of a particular topic are easy to understand.

nature journal

Scholarly periodicals (like Nature pictured above) are written by academic experts with material evaluated by other academic experts in their same fields in a process called peer-review.   With the exception of book reviews, brief feature articles, and editorials, the articles in scholarly journals thoroughly investigate an issue, and may contain an original experiment, population study, or simply be a rigorous review of the literature on the topic.  Journal articles usually provide a bibliography at the end to add validity and credibility to the research.  Journal articles are written for other experts in the field and therefore tend to use specialized terminology that assumes some level of expertise in the topic. 

pharmacy today magazine

Trade journals or trade magazines (like Pharmacy Today pictured above) contain articles written by professionals to provide practical information and to promote education and skills within a particular trade or industry. However, articles usually do not go through the peer-reviewed process and are not original research.

The following video provides a good overview of the differences between a scholarly and popular periodical:

What is Peer Review?

An essential characteristic of a peer-reviewed article is that it is evaluated and approved by experts in the field prior to publication. Not all scholarly journals or articles are peer-reviewed, however. View the following video for a quick overview of the process of peer review:

How to Read a Scholarly Article

To save time during the research process, and to better understand what the author(s) is trying to say more quickly, its more efficient to read a scholarly article in a different order. Watch the following video to find out how: