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COTC: Periodicals & More: Popular versus Scholarly Sources

Use this guide to find journal articles, both full text and abstracts, as well as comprehensive databases and indexes for conducting research.

Popular and Scholarly Sources

What are Scholarly or Professional Journals?

The term here refers to scholarly journals, not to diaries or personal accounts.  These are the characteristics of such journals:

Purpose:  Report results of original research, examine existing theories and present new interpretations, review and analyze previous research studies on a topic.

Authors: Scholars with relevant credentials (degrees appropriate to the field of study).

Format: Articles always cite sources in footnotes or bibliographies, may include charts, graphs or tables, but usually few photographs.

Frequency: Many are published quarterly, but some are more frequent.

Language: Assume some scholarly background on the part of the reader, uses terminology of the field or discipline.

Publisher: Often, but not always, published by scholarly or professional organizations.  Some commercial (for profit) publishers also produce scholarly journals.  Journal publishers may require authors to pay production fees.

Selection: Many scholarly journals are “refereed,” that is, a panel of experts reads prospective articles and selects those with scholarly merit.  (“Peer Reviewed” means the same thing as “refereed”.) The journal’s “editorial statement” may indicate whether a journal is refereed.  The library owns guides which also give this information.

How are popular journals (magazines) different? 

Audience: Articles are usually written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience.

Length: Articles are usually shorter than scholarly journal articles.

Author: The author is journalist or professional writer; it is not always clear who the author is.

Style: The Content is easy to comprehend by the general reader. 

Finding Articles and Using the Databases

Databases provide you with access to a wide range of articles that can be used as resources for your paper.  When searching in the database, keep in mind the terms listed below.  They will assist you in navigating the databases and locating resources.

  •   "Full Text": By selecting the full text box in a database, you are ensuring that the database will only retrieve articles that are available in their complete format.  If you do not select the full text box, you will still receive results, but you may only receive the citations.
  •   Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals:  Articles that are submitted to a scholarly journal must first be evaluated by an editorial team for the journal.  This team reviews the article in order to verify that the research is authentic.  If you know that you must use scholarly journals for your assignment, you should select this box.
  •    Abstract:  An abstract is a short summary, detailing the main idea of a journal article.  Searching within the abstracts of articles can assist you in locating information that is pertinent to your topic.

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