UF F RIDN Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals
GEORGE A. SMATHERS LIBRARIES
An important step in writing a term paper or in completing many assignments includes finding information in
periodicals. In general, information in periodicals is more current than information in books because of the shorter
publication cycle. When professors or librarians speak of the periodical literature, they may use several different
terms, such as, magazines, serials, or scholarly journals.
In order to look for the right kind of information in the right places, you first need to understand the assignment.
Does your professor want you to look for papers in scholarly journals, or will recent articles from substantive,
general interest or popular magazines be more appropriate? Once you understand the assignment, you need to
know how to distinguish one kind of periodical literature from another. Here are some rough guidelines:
* A serial or periodical is any publication with issues that appear at regular intervals (weekly, monthly,
quarterly, and annually) and is intended to continue indefinitely. Magazines, journals, newspapers, year
books, proceed ings, and indexes are all serials.
* Magazines are commercial serial publications intended for a wide variety of readers. Some magazines
provide news and general information to a popular audience, while others are aimed at professionals in
* Newspapers are commercial periodicals that are issued daily, weekly or biweekly, featuring cover-
age of news and current events as well as opinion and advertising. Newspapers seek to inform,
explain, influence and entertain readers. Some papers such as the New York Times, USA Today or
the Gainesville Sun target the general public, while others such as the NEA Today aim for a more
* Journals, or scholarly, scientific journals, are periodicals generally published by an institution, profes-
sional association or learned society, and contain articles that disseminate current information on research
and developments in particular subject fields. Before an editor of a journal publishes a manuscript, the
editor and a team of specialists on the journal editorial board examine the manuscript carefully, to be sure
that the article will contribute to the knowledge of the field. Because of the rigorous evaluation process,
these publications are also referred to as refereed or peer-reviewed journals.
Once you have determined the type of publication you wish to use, the next step in your research is to choose the
most appropriate database or index to periodicals. Indexes such as Academic Search Premier and the MLA Bibliog-
raphy cover magazines, newspapers and journals, but allow you to limit your search to peer-reviewed journals if
desired. Other databases may cover only certain types of periodicals. For example, the Readers' Guide to Periodi-
cal Literature indexes approximately 300 popular magazines while Entomology Abstracts covers the top 524
journals in the field of entomology.
To determine the type of periodicals a given index or database covers (such as LexisNexis), look at the description
of the database in the Database Locator (http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/locator.html).
To find the best index to journals or other periodicals in a given subject area or discipline, consult the Databases
by Subject page (http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/subjects.html), then examine the descriptions of the databases. Or
experiment with a search for your subject in the Research Gateway, software that searches for your terms simulta-
neously across several databases at one time.
Remember that you can also easily consult with a librarian about this entire process without leaving your
computer by instant messaging or chatting with a librarian (see Ask A Librarian http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ask.html).