Connect » Library » Research Help & Tips » What is a periodical?

What is a periodical?

A periodical is a publication that appears regularly at fixed intervals. Since periodicals are published more frequently than books, they are better sources for finding current information.

There are several types of periodicals: newspapers such as New York Times and Wall Street Journal, popular magazines such as Newsweek and Scientific American, and scholarly journals such as the Journal of Developmental Education and Academe. Listed below are some criteria you can use to distinguish a scholarly journal from a popular magazine:


  • Articles are usually long (5-50 pages)
  • Include bibliographies or works-cited
  • Authors are experts in the field, and articles are signed by the contributing authors
  • Readers are researchers and professionals
  • Little or no advertising in the periodicals
  • Example: Crime & Delinquency; Journal of Applied Psychology


  • Articles are usually short (1-5 pages)
  • No bibliographies
  • Articles are written by staff, and are sometimes unsigned
  • Readers are general population
  • A lot of advertisements
  • Example: Business Week; Ladies Home Journal

Note: the word “journal” in the title does not necessarily mean the periodical is a scholarly journal. If you are uncertain whether a periodical is a journal or magazine, ask a librarian or consult Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory (REF Z6941 .U5).

← Return to Research Help & Tips