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Finding Scholarly Journals


Periodical Glossary

How to recognize and access different types of periodicals: scholarly, peer-reviewed, popular, trade/industry, magazines, newspapers

Periodical Glossary

Academic Journal

A periodical whose purpose is to inform an academic audience about academic research. Articles in academic journals are usually lengthy, of interest principally to researchers in a narrowly defined field, and full of jargon used by researchers in that field.


A piece of writing shorter than a book-length work that can vary in length from a few to 100 pages. An article is always subsidiary to a larger body of work: e.g., a journal, a book, a website.


A resource for storing vast quantities of organized information. In a library context, it usually means a database of information about articles, with an interface designed for searching by keyword, subject, title, author, and other categories. Databases of this type are usually specific to a field, like Biosys or PsycInfo, but there are also a few multidisciplinary databases, such as Academic OneFile.


The number for a particular journal publication within a volume. A volume usually consists of one entire year, while an issue usually refers to one single publication. Unlike magazines, whose issues are usually identified by a date, academic journals are usually identified by volume and issue. These numbers are sometimes identified explicitly--e.g., "Volume 42, Issue 3"--and sometimes typographically--e.g. "42 (3)". Sometimes, two issues are condensed into one publication date--e.g., "Volume 42, Issue 2/3" or 42 (2,3)". These numbers are important for locating a particular journal issue that contains an article. You may need to keep track of these numbers when the "Find it" button takes you to a journal website rather than directly to an article.


Usually, an academic periodical, often published quarterly. A "journal" is basically the academic equivalent of a "magazine." Academics use a different word because of substantial differences in purpose, appearance, and audience. Academic journals are generally smaller and thicker, have few ads and little color, serve a narrow audience of a few thousand scholars by providing informative articles, and are non-profit in editorial intent, even when published by for-profit companies.


A popular periodical, usually published weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, on glossy paper; of course, most magazines also make content available online; usually, the online version follows the layout and design constraints of the print version. The purpose of most magazines is to make money for their owners by increasing market share and advertising revenue. Articles in magazines therefore try to appeal to the broadest possible audience within a target demographic. Magazines are colorful and full of attractive images and advertisements for retail products. Article purposes are about equally divided between informing and entertaining. Trustworthiness of information varies widely.


A popular periodical, usually published daily or weekly, on large format newsprint. The purpose of most newspapers is to make money for its owners by increasing market share for its advertisers. Some newspapers increase market share by appealing to customer values of trustworthiness and objectivity. Often, though, newspapers appeal to customers' political or social values and are therefore biased. Trustworthiness of reporting varies widely.

Open Access

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.


A system of editorial control for encouraging accuracy and trustworthiness in academic publication. The process is designed to be as objective as possible: usually, three or more outside experts are engaged to review a manuscript submitted to a journal. They are unpaid volunteers unaffiliated with the publication. If the process is "blind," their identities are concealed from the author, and the author's identity from them. They can recommend publication, publication after revision, re-submission after revision, or they can outright reject publication. They often provide detailed comments for revision.


Any publication that is issued on a periodic (daily, weekly, monthly, annually) basis.

Popular Periodical

The library term for publications that are intended to appeal to broad audiences, such as magazines and newspapers.


Scholarly or academic journals whose articles are peer-reviewed in some fashion. "Refereed" is generally understood to be a broader term that encompasses other types of review, such as careful editorial review.

Scholarly Periodical

See "Academic Journal"

Trade/Industry Periodical

A periodical intended to inform industry practitioners and professionals about new and/or interesting products, processes, business developments, people, and other news related to a particular industry. The format resembles a magazine, but the content is so specific to a particular industry or set of products that nobody would confuse this for a popular publication.


Usually, one year of a journal's publication run. A volume may contain any number of issues, usually between 4 and 12. Though a volume usually corresponds to a year, it may correspond to an academic year rather than a calendar year. That is, "Volume 42" could correspond to 2010, or it could correspond to the academic fiscal year July 2009 to June 2010. See "Issue" for typographic representations.

Subject Guide

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Steve Runge
Senior Liaison for English Literature & Asian Studies
O'Neill Library 314
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467