What's a journal?

A journal, sometimes called a periodical or serial, is published regularly - for example, weekly, monthly or twice a year. So it’s a good way of getting up-to-date news and research on a subject. Each new issue has a number of articles written by different people. So far, this could also apply to magazines. However, journals are aimed at readers with a more serious interest in the subject.

  • Trade journals are written for professionals in that area, for example, ‘Management today’ or ‘Industrial engineer’.
  • Scholarly journal articles are written by academics for an audience that is mainly academic. These journals are not usually glossy magazines, and there is usually a list of references at the end of each article. The editors will usually include staff at universities, other academic institutions, hospitals or learned societies.
  • Peer-reviewed journals (also called refereed journals) give all articles sent to them to a panel of academic reviewers. The members of this panel will be ‘peers’ of the author, that is, recognised experts in the same field. The panel usually review the papers ‘blind’, which means that they do not know who the authors are. Panel members may recommend changes to the articles to make them fit for publication. For example, they might say that the author should provide more evidence of an argument or read other material. So, peer-reviewed or refereed journals provide quality control for academic publishing. You can look inside the front or back cover of a journal, or its home page on the web, to check whether it is peer-reviewed.  Some library databases, for example ProQuest Central, make it easy to select scholarly journals only.
  • An electronic journal (or ejournal) is one which is available on the web. Sometimes there is both a printed (paper or hard copy) and an electronic version of a journal. You can search our ejournals by subject using Discover or by title using the journal A-Z.

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SMILE by Imperial College, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester, modified by Marion Kelt Glasgow Caledonian University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.