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Finding Scholarly Journals



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

Magazines, Newspapers, Journals

image of New York Times front page

What is a Periodical?

Magazines are periodicals. Newspapers are periodicals. Why do librarians call them periodicals? We use the word "periodical" to distinguish publications that are issued periodically--daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly--from publications that are issued singly, like books, or irregularly, like books in a series.

Newspapers and magazines

  • are published daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly
  • appeal to broad demographic groups
  • sell 10,000-2,000,000 copies

Librarians and publishers call newspapers and magazines "popular" periodicals.

Scholarly Journals

Image of cover of "Nursing Studies," a scholarly journal

  • are published monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually
  • appeal to narrow clusters of academics and researchers
  • contain articles written by scholars, not by journalists
  • sell 500-5,000 copies, mostly to libraries

Journals are also often called academic or scholarly to indicate both their origins (often in academic institutions) and audiences (often scholars). They are also often peer-reviewed or refereed.

People new to these terms often confuse journal with article. An article is a single authored item within any kind of periodical. A journal is a periodically-published collection of articles by different authors.

Trade or Industry Journals

image of cover of "Electric Light & Power," an industry/trade journal

  • are published monthly or weekly
  • appeal to a narrow audience of industry managers and business owners
  • sell a moderate number of copies, mostly to companies through trade organizations

These journals can be very useful for gathering industry information that is mostly unknown to the ordinary reading public, because it doesn't have broad appeal outside narrow industry niches.

Peer-Reviewed or Refereed

Many academic journals are peer-reviewed or refereed journals. When an author (usually a university professor and/or researcher) submits an article, copies are sent to several reviewers who are expert scholars in the author's field. These reviewers then recommend whether or not the article should be published. Some journals reject as many as 90% of submissions. This rigorous review process provides a high degree of credibility.

Two short, informative videos about Scholarly and Peer-Reviewed journals:

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

What is a Scholarly Journal Article? (3 minutes)

Though peer-reviewed, refereed, scholarly, and academic are not exactly the same thing, they are often used interchangeably.


This guide has been created by Boston College Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

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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