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Evaluating Periodicals


Evaluating Periodicals
Contact: Prof. Monty L. McAdoo, User Education Librarian (Room 231), 814-732-1070

Periodicals are publications which come out on a regular basis or "periodically." They might be published daily, weekly, monthly, or on some other publication scale. They can also be magazines, newspapers, and professional journals.  Some assignments require you to use "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" publications. A peer-reviewed periodical means that people familiar with the discipline of the publication review all content before it is published to insure it is timely, accurate, and appropriate to the audience and purpose of the publication. The goal of a peer-reviewed publication is to provide information as opposed to magazines which are geared towards increasing sales. This page is designed help you determine which type of publication you are examining. To compare articles, you might find our Article Evaluation handout helpful. 

A comparison of different types of periodicals






Generally have a sober, serious look.

May be quite attractive in appearance, although some are in newspaper format.

Come in many formats, although often somewhat slick and attractive in appearance.


Report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly community.

Provide information, in a general manner, to a broad audience of concerned citizens. Entertain the reader, to sell products (their own or their advertisers’), and/or promote a viewpoint.


Written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. Written by a member of the editorial staff or scholar or free-lance writer. Written by staff members or free-lance writers.


That of the discipline covered. It assumes some scholarly background on the part of the reader. Geared to any educated audience. There is no specialty assumed, only interest and a certain level of intelligence. Usually very short, written in simple language and are designed to meet a minimal education level. There is generally little depth to the content of these articles.


Often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.

Often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs.

Lots of graphics (e.g. photos, drawings).


Pertain to the topic of the journal or the discipline with which it is associated. Frequent and consumer-oriented - may or may not have anything to do with topic of publication. Frequent and consumer-oriented and can be for just about anything.


Scholarly journals ALWAYS cite their sources in the form of foot-/endnotes or bibliographies. News and general interest periodicals sometimes cite sources though, more often, do not. Rarely, if ever, cite sources. The information published in such journals is often second or third hand and the original source is sometimes obscure.


Many scholarly journals, though, by no means all, are published by a specific professional organization. Generally published by commercial enterprises or individuals, although some emanate from specific professional organizations. Published by commercial enterprises or individuals.


Articles are subjected to review by peers before publication. Reviewed by editors who may or may not have any expertise in discipline. Reviewed by editors who typically review articles for commercial value.


- Psychological Bulletin
- Harvard Review

- Newsweek
- Psychology Today
- Time  

- Reader’s Digest
- Family Circle
- Cosmopolitan

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