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Identify, locating, and citing scholarly journal articles

What is a periodical?  |  What is a periodical index?  |  What is a citation?  |  What is an abstract?  |  What is a scholarly peer-reviewed journal?  |  How can I be sure I'm consulting scholarly articles?



What is a periodical?

A periodical is a paper or electronic publication that is issued on a regular basis (quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily, etc.). Four kinds of periodicals you will find in most libraries are:

  • Newspapers - (e.g. Los Angeles Times, Washington Post) report on current events, express opinions, and publish special interest features.
  • Popular Magazines - (e.g. Psychology Today, Time, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Us, Ebony, Mira!) present articles of popular interest on a variety of subjects.
  • Journals - (e.g. International Affairs, Journal of American History, Theatre Research International) publish articles by scholars and other experts in their fields reporting on studies and research that they have conducted in a particular subject area.
  • Trade Magazines - (e.g. Advertising Age, Journal of Accountancy) enable practitioners in a trade or profession to communicate with each other about new products and methodologies.


What is a periodical index?

A periodical index is an index to the articles in a variety of newspapers, magazines and journals.

Periodical indexes usually appear in one of two formats:

  • Electronic - Most periodical indexes are now available on the internet.
  • Paper (bound volumes) - Sometimes still used for older periodicals.

An electronic periodical index is often called an electronic database, online database or simply a database.

Databases and electronic periodical indexes let you search by subject, keyword and a variety of other criteria for citations that lead to articles relevant to your assignment.

Many electronic and paper periodical indexes include abstracts (concise descriptions of the contents of articles) as well as citations. Many electronic periodical indexes also include convenient access to the full text of some or all of the articles to which they provide citations.

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What is a citation?

A citation is a brief description of a work that provides the reader of your paper with enough information to locate the completework that you are quoting or to which you are referring in your footnoter bibliography. A citation includes:

  • the author's name
  • the title of the work
  • the location and name of the publisher
  • the year the work was published.

To fully identify a source that is part of a larger work, a citation should also include:

  • the title of a specific article or chapter
  • the volume number in which the source appeared
  • the page numbers within the larger work

When citing any periodical article, also include:

  • the author of the article
  • the title of the article
  • the name of the periodical
  • the volume, date and page numbers of the issue in which the article appears

While all the information in a citation remains as listed above, there are several different writing styles. These styles differ based on what type of class you are taking. If your professor has not mentioned which style you should use, ask!

You can locate the correct format for both electronic and paper citations in your area of study by looking in the style manual recommended by your instructor or by visiting the CSUDH Library webpage How to Cite Your Sources in a Research Paper.

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What is an Abstract?

An abstract is a brief summary of a larger work such as a journal or magazine article. You can read through the abstract to decide whether an article will be helpful in your research. Remember that reading an abstract is NOT the same as reading the entire journal article—you cannot cite the article unless you locate and read the entire article!!

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What is a Scholarly Peer-reviewed Journal?

You will often be asked to complete an assignment using scholarly or peer reviewed articles.

This type of periodical article is generally found in a scholarly journal. A scholarly journal is a periodical that contains articles written by and for professionals or scholars such as historians, scientists and psychologists. These publications contain:

  • articles about recent research in a particular field of study
  • articles that summarize the current state of knowledge on a topic within the field of study.

Scholarly journals are widely regarded as a reliable source of information on a topic because each article is evaluated both by an editorial board and by experts who are not part of the editorial staff before it is accepted it for publication. This process of evaluation is called the peer review or referee process.Other terms often used to refer to scholarly journals include:

  • peer-reviewed journal
  • journal
  • refereed journal
  • academic journal
  • research journal
  • juried publication

Periodical articles from magazines or newspapers provide some basic information on a topic but usually lack the depth and authority of scholarly journal articles.

Characteristics of scholarly journals:

  • authors of articles are authorities in their fields
  • most articles are reports on scholarly research
  • articles use jargon of the discipline or technical language
  • articles have little or no advertising
  • illustrations are usually charts and graphs
  • articles are usually long (more than 5 pages) and include footnotes, endnotes and lists of references (bibliographies) citing the authors' sources
  • journals are often published by professional organizations (such as the American Psychological Association)

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How can I be sure I'm consulting scholarly articles?

Use an appropriate periodical index that indexes primarily scholarly journals such as JSTOR , Wilson Web , Project Muse or Medline.

Use a periodical index that allows you to restrict or limit your search to scholarly journal articles by making a checkmark in the appropriate box. Academic Search Premier, ABI Inform/ProQuest, CINAHL Plus with Full Text and many other databases offer this function.

Determine whether a particular journal you want to cite is truly a peer reviewed, refereed journal by checking the title in Ulrich's Periodical Directory online (enter the journal title and look for a small black and white referee's t-shirt icon to the left of the title).

Read through abstracts (brief summaries provided with search results in many electronic periodical indexes, and often found at the beginning of a scholarly article, just below the title)

Look for some of these characteristics of a scholarly article:

  • description of recent formal research or a scientific study conducted by the authors
  • a summary of previous work in the field by the authors
  • other researchers (literature review) references to subjects or materials that were studied and methods that were used to conduct research description of results or conclusions drawn from the research

Read the article itself, looking for:

  • technical language or jargon that belongs to a particular academic field
  • charts or graphs that illustrate results of research
  • citations to the authorís sources (other books and articles) in footnotes or at the end of the article.

View this helpful interactive tutorial: Evaluating Scholarly Content Online (takes about 5 minutes).

If you still feel you need help, contact a librarian for help.

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