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Counselling and Addiction Studies: Distinguishing periodical types


Grateful acknowledgement to the Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  for permission to use and modify their template

Distinguishing Periodical Types

The table below lists some of the distinguishing characteristics among different types of periodicals. Keep in mind:

  • These descriptions are only general rules and, as with all rules, there are exceptions.
  • Physical appearance can give you clues as to the type of periodical, but it is also important to evaluate the content of each article to determine its credibility and usefulness.
  • Look at the characteristics in multiple categories, do not base your decision on only one or two!

If you are still unsure whether a periodical is considered an academic/scholarly journal, check with your instructor concerning the suitability of a source for your assignment.

For help making decisions for online full-text articles see: Is it scholarly? Distinguishing online periodical types .

CRITERIA Scholarly Journals 
(also called academic, 
peer-reviewed, and refereed)
Professional and 
Trade Periodicals
Popular and Special 
Interest Magazines
Purpose for 
  • Inform and report original research
  • Provide in-depth analysis of issues related to a specific discipline
  • Current trends, news, and research in a specific field 
  • Provide employment & career information
  • Entertain, inform, and persuade without providing in-depth analysis
  • Lengthy articles
  • Citations, bibliographies
  • Charts, graphs, tables
  • Some research articles
  • Statistics and forecasts
  • Sources cited
  • Articles usually fairly short
  • Sources generally not cited
Frequency of 
  • Often quarterly
  • Often monthly
  • Usually monthly or weekly
  • Scholars and professors
  • Researchers in the field
  • Author credentials included
  • Scholars
  • Staff writers
  • Freelance journalist
  • Freelance journalists
  • Editorial staff
  • Authors may not be identified
  • Generally lengthy
  • Focus on a narrow subject or piece of research
  • Varying lengths
  • Research articles
  • News from the field
  • "How to" information
  • Usually short
  • General information, little detail
Words and 
Jargon Used
  • Terminology used by scholars in the discipline
  • Language specific to those in a given profession
  • Common language and sentence structure, no jargon