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What is a Periodical?
A periodical is a publication that comes out periodically, such as a magazine, journal, or newspaper.
Three Types of Periodicals
- Usually called scholarly journal.
- Articles typically written for scholars by scholars of same discipline.
- Can be peer-reviewed.
- Articles written for practitioners of a field by practitioners in that same field.
- Magazines or newspapers are common examples.
- Articles written by professional writers and targeted at a popular or general audience.
- Can have subject focus or be more general news or entertainment magazine.
Evaluating Website Endings
Look at Domain Name
- You can tell a lot about a website from the domain name like .org, .edu, .gov, or .com
General Guidelines for Credibility
Typically Most Credible: .edu and .gov
- As a general guideline, you will want to find primary sources or information that come from websites that end with the .edu or .gov domain name. These websites will be generated by educational institutions or governmental institutions and are usually the most trustworthy.
Requires More Investigation: .org
- Websites that end with .org require a bit more evaluation to determine whether they are trustworthy. Anyone can create a website that ends with .org.
Probably Avoid: .com
For your project, you will probably want to steer clear of websites that end with .com.
The Types of Periodicals Explained
Keep in mind that a scholarly journal is aimed at an audience of scholars who study a particular field. Many scholarly journals are also peer-reviewed, but not all.
Common Characteristics of Scholarly Periodicals
- Articles are written by authors identified as scholars, often professors at colleges, universities, or medical institutions.
- Articles are well-documented with footnotes, endnotes, and/or in-text citations, and a bibliography, works cited list, or list of references. Articles follow a standard citation style accepted by the field, such as MLA for the humanities or APA for the social sciences.
- Audience is scholars in the field who are familiar with the specialized language, often considered jargon, used in a scholarly discipline.
- Title often includes the words review, quarterly, studies, or journal: The Sociological Review, Shakespeare Quarterly, Studies in the Natural Sciences, and American Journal of Nursing are all scholarly journals.
- Few advertisements; those it contains are often for books or other journals potentially of interest to the scholars who read the journal.
- Can be peer-reviewed.
- A peer-reviewed scholarly journal is a journal in which all of the articles have been peer-reviewed or "refereed" by other experts on the subject to verify the reliability of the research the author presents.
Ulrich's Periodicals Directory (Ulrichsweb)
You can use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to see if a journal is peer-reviewed. Look for the referee's striped shirt for an easy way to tell if a journal is refereed (peer-reviewed).
A trade periodical, often a magazine or newsletter, is a publication aimed at practitioners in a certain trade or profession that contains articles about trends, news, and practices in the field.
Common Characteristics of Trade Periodicals
- Authors are usually staff members at the publication or other professional writers, often freelancers.
- Articles might have short reference lists, but there are often no footnotes or in-text citations within articles.
- The audience is people who follow or work in a certain trade, industry, or profession, or who belong to an organization.
- Language of articles often contains the terminology of the field.
- Advertisements are often glossy and in color and feature industry equipment and information.
- A trade periodical has its own editorial staff, and articles are usually not peer-reviewed.
Some examples of trade periodical titles are American Libraries, Social Work Practice, Professional Nurse, and Farming Magazine.
A popular periodical, usually a magazine or newspaper, appeals to a popular rather than a scholarly or professional audience.
Common Characteristics of Popular Periodicals
- Articles are written by professional writers, often freelancers, and in many cases no author is named for an article.
- Articles seldom have reference lists, foot- or endnotes, or in-text citations.
- The audience is the general public or an audience interested but not considered expert in a subject.
- Writing is generally easy to read and jargon-free.
- The title is usually descriptive of the content of the magazine, or it might be catchy.
- Filled with advertisements, often glossy, for a wide range of products that might appeal to the readers.
- Articles are not peer-reviewed. It is edited by professional staff at the publication.
Some examples include Newsweek, Better Homes and Gardens, Ebony, and Rolling Stone.
There are several questions to ask yourself when evaluating journal articles.
Is the article scholarly or peer-reviewed?
"Peer reviewed" (or "refereed") means that an article is reviewed by experts in that field before the article gets published. Some databases allow you to limit your search to Peer Reviewed or Refereed articles.
Visit the page "What is Peer Review?" for more information about peer review.
Is the article timely?
Is the article relevant?
The articles you use should be relevant to your research topic and to each other.
Finding Relevant Articles
- Use search terms appropriate for your topic.
- Use the keywords, subject headings, citations in a relevant article to find similar, potentially helpful articles.
- Read and critique the article.
Is the article primary or secondary?
Primary Research Article
Reports on the original research and findings of the authors.
Primary research articles usually have the following (or similar) sections:
- Introduction/Literature Review
Secondary Research Article
- Reviews, summarizes, and discusses topics of interest.
- The research is not original; rather, the authors look at other existing research articles on the topic.
- Secondary articles are useful for learning about a topic of interest and gaining a better understanding of the overall scope or limitations of the research on that topic.
What type of periodical did the article come from?
Is the article written by an authoritative author? Is it published by an authoritative publisher?
- Look at the author’s credentials in the database, or by looking the author up online.
- Is the author writing on a subject in their field of expertise?
- An article on a subject in the author’s field is more authoritative than an article written on a subject outside the author’s expertise.
- Look at the publisher’s website to determine their authority.
- Book publishers have specialized audiences, ranging from academic to financial to spirituality, and this can be communicated directly or by reading through lists of their other books.
- Academic books are often published by presses associated with universities, like Oxford or the University of California.
- Academic periodicals are usually produced by professional organizations, like American Society of Primatologists, or academic publishers.
- There are many of these publishers, but like with books, it's often helpful to see what other titles are maintained by the publishers.
Does the article cover the topic adequately?
- The idea of coverage is related to relevance. In addition to relevance, you want to find articles that cover the topic adequately. Some articles will only cover a small portion of the topic. Other articles will be comprehensive. You may need several articles to completely cover a topic.
What are the purpose, point of view, and bias of the article?
The purpose, point of view, and bias are related but they serve different roles.
- Relates to the message of the article. Is it meant to persuade or to inform? How does the writer use facts or emotional appeals?
Point of view
- Describes an issue or topic from a specific perspective. Point of view arguments usually have a thesis statement that makes a persuasive argument with relevant data. An article about foreign language requirements for college students will have different points of view depending on who wrote the article and who the assumed audience is. Points of view may vary by discipline, profession, experience, and even opinion.
- Different from point of view. While the two are related, bias comes in a few forms. It can describe a distortion, misrepresentation, or poor choice of data in the process of making an argument. Bias can also come from the original data itself, such as in the experimental or analysis phase. Note: rather than seeking "bias-free" articles, try to find the points of bias and disagreement. This is an interesting and sophisticated research technique.
Reading articles carefully will help identify purpose, point of view, and bias in order to research and write effectively.
Is the research in the article sound (reliable and valid)?
- Peer review is a good start.
- Articles that are peer reviewed were critiqued by experts in that field before being published.
- Very important to review methodology and conclusions critically personally.
- Read the methodology.
- Study the field (including looking at the articles the researcher cited)
- Evaluate the conclusions for reasonableness and logical fallacies.
Things to Consider When Evaluating a Website
- What does the URL suggest about the site?
- Do the links work? Broken links suggest the page has been abandoned.
- Who wrote this article?
- Is the author qualified?
- When was this published?
- Has it been updated?
- What does the tone of the writing convey?