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Journals & Periodicals: Identifying Scholarly Sources

Learn how to distinguish between the 3 major categories of information sources: scholarly, popular, and trade.

What does it mean?

This glossary should help with some of the most frequently used terminology.


    Brief summary of an article, book or other written publication.

    A source that has been judged by an independent panel of experts (scholarly or scientific peers)

    A (brief) essay or research report on a subject. Articles can appear in MAGAZINEs, JOURNALs, newspapers, full text online databases, or other sources such as encyclopedias.

    The information which identifies a book or article. The citation for a book usually includes the author, title, place of publication, publisher and date. The citation for an article includes the author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume, page(s) and date.

    Generally, data or information that is entered into a computer program and organized by searchable fields for authors, titles, subject headings, etc. 

    A publication which has scholarly information, usually written by professors, researchers, or experts in a subject area and not intended for the general public. 

    A periodical intended for the general public rather than for scholars, containing articles on various subjects by different authors, who are not necessarily experts on the subject they have written about.

    Material that has been read by experts in the field to evaluate it's validity before publication. 

    The generic term for publications which are published on a regular basis, such as journals, magazines and newspapers.

    A source that enables the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Examples of primary sources are diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts and newspapers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers.

    Peer review (also known as refereeing) is the process of subjecting an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field

    Articles or books that report on original research, written in advanced or technical language by scholars in that field

    A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon. It is generally at least one step removed from the event. A recent article that evaluates and analyzes the relationship between the feminist movement and the labor movement in turn-of-the-century England is an example of a secondary source. Textbooks and encyclopedias are also examples of secondary sources.

    Any publication issued in successive parts, appearing at intervals, usually regular ones, and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. The term includes periodicals, newspapers, annuals, numbered monographic series and the proceedings, transactions and memoirs of societies.

    A summary of an article that is in distinct sections such as introduction, methodology, data, discussion, results, conclusions.   

1) The terms periodical, journal, serial and magazine have slightly different definitions, but they are often used interchangeably. These are works that come out on a regular basis (weekly, quarterly, monthly, annually) and contain articles written by various authors.

2) The terms scholarly, peer-reviewed, academic, and refereed have slightly different definitions but they are often used interchangeably.

The information on this page originally appeared at Olympic College Libraries. Used by permission.