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Information Literacy: 13. Major Types of Periodicals

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Management.

Types of Periodicals Chart

For a comparison of the characteristics for major types of information, click the PDF link or the spreadsheet image below.

Main Types of Periodical

Scholarly and research articles often report original research or review the works of others in deep and lengthy analysis of issues related to discipline.  They are peer-reviewed which is also known as "refereed." Scholars are kept up-to-date in their fields of study through scholarly and research journals, and since they are written by and for researchers, they can use very technical terminology related to their respective studies and therefore  can be difficult to understand. 

The sources of information used in scholarly research literature are very important, so footnotes and bibliographies, (also known as  reference lists) will be listed either within the article's text or at the end of the document.  These lists can provide extensive documentation for additional information, which make this type of literature the preferred method of scholarly research communication.  Publishers are often scholarly presses at universities or professional research organizations.  They typically include an abstract that summarizes their work.  The journals include few or no glossy advertisements, and most images are typically in the form of charts, tables, formulas, and images directly related to their specific work.  Scholarly and research literature as a whole is neutral and factual in its findings; scholars are not supposed to be biased in their work.

Examples: American Historical Review; Behavioral Ecology; Cell; Journal of Educational Research; Plasma Physics; Lancet; and Social Psychology Quarterly.

Popular magazines articles are often short articles that provide a general overview of a topic.  The articles are not peer-reviewed, nor do they provide much in-depth information.  They tend to cover current events, hot topics, and interviews. These magazines are typically produced to create a profit and produced by commercial publishers. Because of this, they are geared towards a wide range of readers, and the use of technical terminology is minimal.  They are easy to read and understand, and they are typically entertaining and "flashy."  The writing may be full of opinion; it may present just one side of the story or be heavily biased on a topic.  Popular magazines are used as primary sources of information for analysis of popular culture. 

Journalists and freelance writers are often the authors, and they rarely cite any of their information sources.  Tracking down information regarding popular culture can be challenging.  The articles frequently incorporate many images that are visually attractive. Full color ads and pictures of all sorts are sprinkled throughout these publications. 

Examples: Time; Newsweek; Sports Illustrated; Readers Digest

Professional, trade and industry journals consist of statistical information, forecasts, and current trends.  They often include company, organization, and biographical information, employment and career info, and news and products in a specific field.  They are written for practitioners. 

The authors are usually practitioners in the field, or journalists with subject expertise.  The articles are not typically peer-reviewed.  They use professional terminology, so they may be difficult to understand.  Occasionally citations and brief bibliographies are included for further investigation.  Professional and trade associations are usually the main publishers, but they may also be produced by commercial publishers for profit.  Photographs, charts, tables, glossy advertisements, and all types of illustrations are normally included. 

Examples: RN (Registered Nurse); Science Teacher; Restaurants and Institutions; American Libraries

These publications offer commentaries on social and political issues. They provide some in-depth analyses and political viewpoints, and they can act as a voice of activist organizations. Speeches, interviews; and book reviews may be included. Written for a general educated audience they are easy to read. The authors vary extremely, from academics to journalists to representatives of various groups. They occasionally uses citations or provide short bibliographies. Created by commercial publishers or non-profit organizations, they have a wide variety of appearances. Some have no graphics, while others are filled with them.

Examples: Mother Jones; Atlantic; National Review; New Republic

Newspapers are primary sources about events. They provide current information (local, regional, and global), hard news, classified ads, editorials, and speeches. Written for a general educated audience, they are easy to read. The authors are professional journalists, who work for commercial publishers. Rarely do the articles cite any sources. Newspapers include pictures, charts, and advertisements of all sorts.

Examples: New York Times; Washington Post; Christian Science Monitor; Wall Street Journal