Home » Academics » Libraries » Library Services for Distance Education » Periodicals – They Are all the Same, Right?

Periodicals – They Are all the Same, Right?

Your library is your portrait. – Holbrook Jackson


What is a Periodical?


This tutorial will attempt to answer your question. Let’s first look at the dictionary reference below:

Main Entry: 1pe·ri·od·i·cal 
Pronunciation: "pir-E-‘ä-di-k&l
Function: adjective
2 a : published with a fixed interval between the issues or numbers b : published in, characteristic of, or connected with a periodical.


Now, what difference does this make to you?


A lot! Have you ever picked up a journal at the library or in some doctors office and did not have a clue what the article was talking about?


Chances are that it was a scholarly publication or a professional publication. These types of publications are geared toward a specific field of study.


Magazines are very unlike the other two types of journals because they focus on the general public; written for everyone so comprehension is much better.




Three Types of Periodicals




Let’s take a closer look at the three standard types of periodicals:

  1. Popular
  2. Scholarly
  3. Professional

 So what is the difference between them?




Popular Periodicals


Traits of popular periodicals:

  1. Intended for the general reader (ex. Women’s Day).
  2. Daily news (ex. Newsweek).

Do not usually include formal bibliographies or footnotes


This category also includes magazines and newspapers. These popular periodicals contain pieces of information for the general population. It does not go into any extensive detail.


The next type of periodicals is vastly different from this one.




Scholarly Periodicals


Scholarly periodicals are specialized publications intended for scholars and students of a particular discipline or subject. These are the type of journals many professors want their students to use for resources when writing papers.


When you professor says for you to use “refereed journals” or “peer reviewed journals” this type of journal is what they are talking about.


Traits of Scholarly Periodicals:

  1. Many have the words Journal, Studies, Review, Annals, or Quarterly,  in the title.
  2. Articles are usually written by authors within universities. Can be considered experts in their field.
  3. The articles are usually the results of research or experimentation. 
  4. Articles contain extensive footnotes and bibliographies.

Articles in this sort of journal also tend to be challenging reading unless you are familiar with the subject.

However, if the journal deals with your particular major, then it will be of great interest to you and be a good resource for research.


Now let’s look at the next type of periodical.






Professional Periodicals


These are publications intended for an educated audience that typically reports on developments and news in a particular field, profession, trade or industry.


Traits of Professional Periodicals

  1. Concentrate on news of a particular field or industry.
  2. Tend to focus on a particular trade (ex. Computer World).
  3. Articles are not about original research. They focus more on information about the specific trade.



How to Use this Information


Try to discover what type of journal will best fit your research. If you are just beginning your research, then popular periodicals might help you develop new ideas of what to write about.


Later, when you have your topic then you will want to look at scholarly periodicals to get more detailed information on your subject.


You could follow that with the professional periodicals to discover the latest information about the topic.







Journals come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in microform, bound and electronic.


Despite the format, the mass majority of journals follow the three formats I have currently described.


Use this knowledge to help develop your research.






Maintained by Library Services.