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Biology 205 (Keating)

Biology 205 (Keating)

Journals, Periodicals, & Magazines: What's the Difference?

The terms journal, magazine, and periodicals are often used interchangeably, but this does not mean that they all refer to the same type of publication.

  • Journals consist of scholarly and/or peer-reviewed articles, references, and citations and are authoritative with more credibility.
  • Magazines contain articles that are non-scholarly, are not peer-reviewed and have less academic credibility. Magazines are considered "popular" publications.
  • Periodicals are any type of publication that publish articles on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly etc...). Examples include journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Both magazines and journals serve a purpose in research. Depending on your topic and guidelines from your professor, you may need to utilize one or both of these types of periodicals.

Scholarly, Peer Reviewed & Popular Articles: What's the Difference?


Scholarly articles are written by an expert in the subject matter, are research focused, contain original research, and the audience is geared towards other experts. Scholarly articles are often, but not always, peer-reviewed.

Peer-reviewed articles are scholarly articles that also go through a rigorous review process by other experts in the same field before publication. How does the process work?

  • After conducting research (often but not always original research) an expert in a field writes an article and submits it to a journal for publication.
  • If the editor(s) believe the article is a good fit, the article is sent to other subject matter experts (in the author's field) who review it for quality indicators such as appropriate scientific methodologies, consideration of previous scholarship, logical conclusions, etc. To avoid bias, reviewers usually do not know the name of the article’s author.
  • Once the review process is complete, the article is returned to the journal editors (with feedback and recommendations for any changes) and either rejected or approved for publication in the journal (pending any required changes the editors require--based on the peer reviewed feedback).

Popular articles are articles that appear in magazines or newspapers, are not scholarly or peer-reviewed, and are written by journalists or staff members who are not subject matter experts. That is not to say that these types of articles are not credible, but they need do need to be evaluated for credibility more so than their counterparts. Examples:

  • New York Times and other newspapers
  • Newsweek
  • National Geographic
  • Psychology Today

How Can I Identify a Peer-Reviewed Article?

There are several ways to check and see if the article you are looking at is peer-reviewed:

  • If you obtain the journal from one of the databases MCC Libraries has access to you can filter you search results to show you only peer reviewed articles.
  • Check the electronic record. In EBSCO and Gale databases, the electronic record will tell you if the article has been peer-reviewed (sometimes called "refereed").
  • Go to the website of the journal the article appears in (many journals only publish peer reviewed articles) to see if it is a peer reviewed publication.

Research articles (sometimes called primary articles) are a type of scholarly, peer-reviewed articleIn a research article, the author(s) performed original research by conducting an experiment or study.

Research articles follow a specific format and include specific sections that show how the research was designed, how the data was gathered, how it was analyzed, and what the conclusions are. Sometimes these sections may be labeled differently, but these basic elements are consistent:

  • Abstract: A brief, comprehensive summary of the article, written by the author(s) of the article.This abstract must be part of the article, not a summary in the database. Abstracts can appear in secondary source articles as well as primary source.
  • Introduction: This introduces the problem, tells you why it’s important, and outlines the background, purpose, and hypotheses the authors are trying to test. The introduction comes first, just after the abstract, and is usually not labeled. The Introduction will contain the following elements (though these are usually not labeled as such):
    • Literature Review: Summarizes and analyzes previous research related to the problem being investigated.
    • Hypothesis or Specific Question: Often (but not always) in quantitative and mixed methods studies, specific questions or hypothesis are stated just before the methodology.
  • ‚Äč Methods: Researchers indicate who or what was studied (source of data), the methods used to gather information (how the experiment or study was conducted), and a procedures summary. This section will contain a lot of charts, graphs, or tables and it is important not to skip over reading them.  
  • Results (findings): Summarizes the data and describes how it was analyzed. It should be sufficiently detailed to justify the conclusions. 
  • Discussion: The author(s) explain how the data fits their original hypothesis, state their conclusions, and look at the theoretical and practical implications of their research. This section is sometimes labeled "Interpretation" or "Analysis.
  • Conclusion: A summary statement that reflects the overall answers to the research questions. Implications and recommendations for future research are also included in this section. This section is not always labeled.

In short, research articles are articles where an original experiment or study was conducted and will typically contain the following section headings: Methods, Discussion, Conclusion. 


Example: Skin Cancer Prevention Behaviors Among Parents of Young Children

                Anatomy of a Research Article

Review articles (sometimes called secondary articles) summarize current or existing research on a topic.

Experiments or studies were not conducted by the author(s) and as a result they are typically not broken down into the types of sections research articles are broken down into (But don't assume).

The core of a review article is summarizing experiments or studies that other researchers performed.

Research articles are a great way to quickly learn about new research in a particular field. It is important to remember that review articles can be  peer reviewed articles. So just because you have a peer-reviewed article, don't assume that it must be a research article.

Often times, review article are labeled as such in the title or top of the article. 

In short, review articles are articles where new research in a field is summarized and an original experiment or study was not conducted. If an article does not have  methods, results, and discussion sections; it is a review article.


Example: Dissecting Kawasaki Disease: A State of the Art Review

Permission to use Research vs. Review Articles provided by the creator, Jennifer Lee of University of Calgary LibrariesCopyright © 2014