Answered By: Robert Fitzpatrick
Last Updated: Nov 12, 2014     Views: 46


Periodical is a general term for literature published on a regular basis (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). Newspapers, journals and magazines are all part of a group collectively referred to as periodical literature. Titles such as The New York Times, The Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, and Newsweek are examples.

Professional or Trade Journals

Popular magazines and scholarly journals as mentioned above are the two periodical types you'll run into most frequently. However, many professions and trades have journals important to their practitioners. These are also usually considered secondary sources, but the articles are written to a specific audience. For example, Progressive Grocer won't contain research articles about the grocery and supermarket industry, and it's really of interest to those in the trade, rather than to the general public. Progressive Grocer is a trade journal. Other examples of trade journals include Publisher's Weekly, Oil and Gas Journal, and Electronic News.

A professional journal is very much like a trade journal, but these are aimed at people practicing a particular profession. Examples of professional journals include Instructor, Library Journal (note that the word journal in a title doesn't always mean you'll be reading a scholarly journal), Sales & Marketing Management, and Athletic Training. Both trade and professional journals contain articles of interest to practitioners.

Peer-Reviewed (or Refereed) Journals

Your professors will often say that they want your research to come from peer-reviewed, or refereed, sources. What does that mean?

The peer review process works something like this. A researcher writes an article about his or her research. The researcher will then send a copy of the article to the editor of a journal. The editor makes copies of the article and distributes them among known scholars in the same field asking for comments and endorsements. If these scholars (the referees or "peers") decide that the research is solid, timely, and makes a valid contribution to the field, the editor will probably decide to publish the article in the journal.

Journals are among the most important vehicles for advancing knowledge in a particular field of study. Their intended audience is fellow researchers. They are the preferred sources for your research and the use of them in your papers establishes your own credibility with your reader (your professor!). It is important to note, however, that journals frequently contain letters to the editor, book reviews, and personal opinion columns, which are not primary sources in the strict sense, because they are not reporting original research.

If the article you're looking at matches the description of a scholarly journal as outlined above, then you're using a peer-reviewed publication. You can feel confident about including it in your bibliography.

Periodical Comparison


Popular magazines and scholarly journals differ in several significant ways. The following eight points will help you determine whether a particular title is popular or scholarly.