Library 103 Second Session

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Introduction to Periodicals


Periodical - A publication issued at regular intervals (over a period of time) and intended to continue indefinitely. Magazines, journals, and newspapers are periodicals.

Magazine- A periodical that is usually paperbound that contains essays, stories, illustrations and advertising.

Journal - A periodical published for a group or a profession.

Newspaper - A periodical usually issued daily or weekly and contains news, commentaries, feature stories, and advertising.

The Periodicals List link is a listing of periodicals available in the COS LRC.

The Four Categories of Periodicals

Scholarly Journal

The purpose of these periodicals is to present academic learning and research; some, but not all scholarly journals may be peer reviewed (also called refereed). Peer reviewed means that before the article is published, it is reviewed by a panel of peers that is, experts in the same field as the author. The panel examines the research methods; it does not mean that the topic itself is significant, only that the research methods are sound.

Characteristics of a Scholarly Journal are as follows:


  1. Serious appearance often including graphs or charts with usually no advertising.
  2. Written by experts/scholars in the field. The name of the author(s) is given and the affiliation usually an university or think tank.
  3. Uses terminology of the discipline.
  4. Always sources are cited and an abstract and bibliographies are usually included.
  5. Articles are usually twenty plus pages in length.
  6. Audience is academic or other researchers in the field.
Examples of Scholarly Journals:
  1. ​​JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
  2. Journal of Marriage and the Family


Substantive News or General Interest

The purpose of these periodicals is to provide information to a broad group of readers.

Characteristics of a Substantive News or General Interest Periodicals are as follows:

  1. Articles may be written by a member of the editorial staff, an expert, or a free lance writer.
  2. Usually sources are not cited.
  3. Written for an educated audience, but not for experts or scholars in the field.
  4. Published by commercial publishers.
Examples of Substantive News or General Interest Periodicals:
  1. National Geographic
  2. New York Times
  3. Time​



The purpose of these periodicals is to entertain their readers and to sell the products of their advertisers and/or to promote a specific point of view.

Characteristics of Popular Periodicals are as follows:

  1. Articles are usually short in length and written in simple language with no citations.
  2. Glossy​ appearance with lots of pictures and blurbs to attract attention.
  3. Lots of advertising.
  4. Published by commercial publishers.

Examples of Popular Periodicals:

  1. Vogue
  2. Sports Illustrated
  3. Parents


The purpose of these periodicals is to appeal to the curiosity, credulity or naivety of their readers.

  1. Often published in newspaper format.
  2. Flashy, attention getting headlines.
  3. Elementary or sometimes inflammatory language.

Examples of Sensational Periodicals:

  1. Globe
  2. National Enquirer

Magazines for Libraries (R016.05 M189) is a reference source in the COS Library for evaluating periodicals. Each entry gives basic information such as the name of the periodical, publisher, editor, address, price etc. It also gives where it is indexed. The audience and scope and political slant are also mentioned. There is a subject and title index at the end of the volume.

Commercial Indexes - Print and Electronic

To find an appropriate magazine/journal article, you need to use an index. Whether in print format or electronic format, indexes let you know what specific issue and page of what specific magazine/journal has an article on your topic (subject).

The COS Library has several online periodical indexes:   Academic Electronic Databases. Although these electronic indexes are in the web page format; they are commercial, subscription indexes which are paid for by the Library. They are available to COS students or other paid subscribers only.


Scholarly Journal Evaluation Guidelines

  • Acceptance Procedure:
    Blind referee process (Reviewed and selected by a panel of experts: the panel does not know who
                    the author is and the author doesn't know who is on the panel.)
                    Editor/editorial board
  • Advertising:
    Is advertising accepted?
                   If so, are there guidelines?
  • Indexing:
    Where is the journal indexed?
  • Publication Frequency:
  • Article Types:
    Research Data - tables and/or graphs
                  Practitioner " How I...."

                  Regular Columns
                  Letters to the Editor
                  Book Reviews
  • Audience:
                 Who would want to subscribe?
                 Which type of library should subscribe?
  • Authority:
    What information can you find out about the authors?
                   Are they researchers, academics, practitioners?
  • Documentation:
    Does the author properly cite his sources?
                    Is a bibliography included?
                    "Authorities" must be properly identified and credentialed.
  • Style:
    Academic, technical, readable for laypersons?
                    Is there an abstract/summary at the beginning of the article?
  • Publisher:
    Is the publisher a professional organization or a u

To fully evaluate a scholarly journal you should look at more that one issue. You should probably inspect at least all the issues for one year. Some information such as submission guidelines may only be printed in one issue a year.

___________________________________________________________________________________________ Prepared 3/20/01 from the following sources:

Woodward, Jeannette A. Writing Research Papers: investigating resources in cyberspace. 2nd ed.
             Lincolnwood, Ill.: Contemporary Publishing, 1999.
Beck, Susan E. "Information Review #2:Scholarly Journal." Assignments, LSC311-02, Fall 2000.
             16 Nov. 2000. New Mexico State University.                

              <> (20 Mar. 2001).


Information About Newspapers

A newspaper is a periodical with the mission of presenting and commenting on the news. There are basically three types of newspapers: Those published daily, those published weekly, and those published for special interests. Basic characteristics of newspapers are as follows:

        Appear under the same title and editorship
        Use non-durable newsprint paper
        Paging is not consecutive; ends with the particular edition

On-line newspapers are also a reality. Most on-line newspapers are free, but many times the free articles are only available for a short period of time. Many charge for searching and downloading past articles in their archives.

Newspapers provide the following advantages over other media:

        Usually cover more stories than other media
        Usually cover the stories in more depth
        Readers can absorb the news at their own pace
        Provide information that only a few readers want such as obituaries, stock reports, want ads
        Local coverage
        Editorials and columns comment on controversial issues

In spite of the advantages of newspapers, newspapers are decreasing. The high cost of labor and newsprint and distribution problems along with competition from the other media and the Internet have driven some newspapers out of business. As a result very few American cities have more than one daily paper. Those newspapers with increased circulation are national in scope such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, rather than regional.

Another trend is toward ownership of daily newspapers by large chains such  as the Times Mirror Company and the Tribune Company. Family owned newspapers with circulations over 300,000 are becoming very rare.

Not even the largest newspapers can afford to have reporters in every large city in the United States and the World, so newspapers rely on what are called News Services for their foreign and some of the national coverage. News Services have reporters stationed worldwide. The primary U. S. new services are the Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI). With the cutting back of staff to save money, more and more newspapers depend on these services. As a result, there is less in-depth and more uniformity of coverage.

The exception to these trends has been weekly ethnic newspapers, which are experiencing increased revenue and circulation. The largest growth has been in Hispanic weeklies.

The New York Times is known as "the newspaper of record," because it has historically included the full text of important speeches and official documents and also because of the completeness and quality of its news coverage.

The Pulitzer Prize in Journalism is awarded for articles published in newspapers and commend high standards in writing and reporting. To find out more information about the history and recipients of the Prize, you can go to the link: The Pulitzer Prizes.

Some basic newspaper terms to remember:

        Headline - is the title or caption of a newspaper article usually appearing in large type.
        Banner - is the top headline on page 1
        By-line - is the name of the writer of a story usually appearing under the headline.
        Lead - is the opening paragraph of a story summarizing the most important parts of the story (what, who, when ,where, and why).
        Dateline -  is the line at the beginning of a news story that tells where and when the story originated.
        Editorial - is an article in a publication expressing the opinion of the editor or publisher.
        Lead Story - traditionally placed in the upper right corner of the front page.
        Editorial/Opinion (OpEd) page-consists of the editorial, letters to the editor, and columnists.


Newspapers vary widely in quality and coverage. The news items included depend on the editorial policy of the individual paper and the area where the paper is published.  

Electronic and Print Newspaper Indexes

The COS Library also has available an Newsbank Inc. online index to the  Fresno Bee. and  ProQuest National Newspaper Core . The SIRS database also provides full-text articles for a large number of newspapers.
For COS students there are two main advantages for using these online indexes/databases over the specific newspaper webpage: 1. Usually the searching software is more precise. 2. The cost of printing the article is much less.

The newspapers that the COS Library carries are listed at the link:    Newspaper Titles

Local Sources of Information

Non-profit organizations may be a good source for local information, perspectives, and statistics. The United Way and Tulare County Health and Human Services publish the Tulare County Community Resources Directory providing contact information for helping organizations in this area.

Date Last Updated: 10/9/14

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Last Updated: 3/25/2015 9:56 AM