Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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.
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.