Periodicals Basics

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A periodical is a generic term used for materials that are published at regular intervals–monthly, quarterly, daily, etc

  • popular magazines
  • scholarly journals
  • subject or professional publications

Periodicals are an excellent method of getting current information. Subjects that are new or too specialized to be covered in books can often be found in journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Use the online databases available on the Electronic Resources Page. Many online databases contain full-text articles. To find out if a particular periodical is available in full-text, use the Journal Finder.

Types of Periodicals

Periodicals have a variety of purposes and kinds of audiences. Magazines may be appropriate for some purposes, journals of opinion for others, but usually the most important sources for university level research are academic journals.

The definitions below will help you understand the differences between periodical types:

  • Magazines are commercial publications intended for a general, popular audience for the purpose of informing and entertaining.

  • Journals are specialized, scholarly publications written by authorities in the field. They usually include bibliographies.

  • Subject or professional/practitioner magazines are between magazines and journals, with articles written by experts but intended less to advance the field than to report on developments of interest.

  • Trade journals are also between magazines and journals, but their focus includes more product and business information.

Primary & Secondary Sources

Another distinction made about research documents centers on understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources:

  • Primary sources–are eyewitness accounts, laboratory data, interviews, original manuscripts, or original research, published in either paper or other formats that may include microform and electronic reproduction. Examples are diaries, letters, speeches, minutes of meetings, scientific research reports, and news footage.

  • Secondary sources–are works that interpret primary sources, and includes reviews, criticism, editorials, and analysis. Most journal articles are secondary sources that provide analysis, interpretation, or evaluation by the writer.

Peer Reviewed or Refereed Journals

Peer reviewed (also known as refereed) journals are distinquished by their quality of research which is reviewed by peers (experts) in the field prior to publication.

Ulrich's Periodicals Directory

Provides information on nearly a quarter of a million consumer and trade magazines, academic and scholarly publications, monographic series, newsletters, newspapers, electronic publications, and many other types of serial publications.

To search for refereed publications for a general discipline or subject area

  • type a general search term–(computers or education)in the Search box field and select the "Advanced Search" link.

  • select the "More Limiters" link.

  • Under Key Feature, select the "Refereed / Peer-reviewed" checkbox.

  • click the search button

To search for a specific periodical title

  • type in the name of the periodical in the Title (Keyword) field
  • click the search button
  • from the list, select the "Journal Title" link
  • if the journal is "refeered / peer-reviewed" it will be indicated as such:

Search results will contain matching journal titles listed in alphabetical order. A periodical that is considered peer reviewed (refereed) will be indicated by "refereed icon Refeered icon".

Search result showing icon for referred titles.

Expanded Academic ASAP (InfoTrac)

Expanded Academic Index integrates core titles in every major academic concentration; area- and issue-specific journals; academic journals with application in the professions; and publications with national news coverage and commentary. It includes 1,500 scholarly, trade and general-interest publications, as well as references for The New York Times. Subject coverage includes astronomy, religion, law, history, psychology, humanities, current events, sociology, communications and the general sciences.

After selecting Expanded Academic ASAP from the database listings in the Electronic Resources section you will be connected to the InfoTrac page. You will then need to

  • click on Proceed
  • scroll down and click on Expanded Academic ASAP–either the graphic to the left of the database name, the linked title of the database or the Start searching this collection link below the database description

To search for refereed publications in Expanded Academic

  • type your search terms in the entry box(es)
  • limiting your search to refereed publications is one of the options below the search boxes
  • click in the check box to the left of peer-reviewed publications
  • click the Search button

Limiting to peer reviewed publications in Expanded Academic.


Covers general and academic journals, including education, psychology, social sciences, computer science, business, and many others topics. ProQuest also includes the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY and Barron's. ProQuest content includes selected full-text and full-image articles.

To search for peer reviewed publications in ProQuest databases

  • type your search terms in the entry box(es)
  • limit your search to Scholarly journals, including peer-reviewed, click in the check box
  • click the Search button

Limiting to peer reviewed publications in ProQuest.

WilsonWeb OmniFile Full Text Mega

A multi-disciplinary database providing complete content–indexing, abstracts, and full text–from (six) of WilsonWeb's Full-Text databases.

To search for peer reviewed publications in WilsonWeb databases

  • type in your search term(s) in the search box
  • click the Peer Reviewed check box
  • click the Start button

Limiting to peer reviewed publications.

Locating Specific Types of Journal Articles

Specific types of journal articles can be used as part of a database search. If you need to limit your search to a specific type of journal, use the following terms as part of your search:

  • Quantitative research–consists of systematic, empirical observation, followed by the application of statistical tests. Other terms to try include empirical study, original research, empirical research, and statistical analysis.

  • Empirical research–research that involves the collection of new data. Other terms to try include empirical study, original research, and quantitative research.

  • Literature review–summarizes previous literature on a particular topic. Other terms to try include research review.

  • Meta analysis–utilizes the results of existing studies and analyzes them in a new way looking for previously unnoticed patterns or trends. Other terms to try include action based research, action research, and practicum.

  • Qualitative research–provides detailed narrative descriptions and explanations of phenomena investigated, with lesser emphasis given to numerical quantifications.

  • Case study–detailed analyses focusing on a particular problem of an individual, group, or organization. Other terms to try include cross sectional studies, facility case studies, longitudinal studies, and case records.

  • Change theory–theories and assumptions about the nature of change and how change can best be encouraged and facilitated. Other terms to try include change strategies or educational change.

  • Theory–generalizations or principles supported by substantial evidence, but not conclusively proven, proposed as explanations of observed phenomena or the relations in a given body of facts. Other terms to try include theoretical models, models, and names of specific theories.

  • Practitioner–information written by experts in the field aimed primarily at reporting on developments of interest rather than reporting research. Other terms to try include practitioners. Some databases, such as ERIC, allow searches to be limited by the target audience group, practitioners.

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Last updated: 02/16/2009