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What is a scholarly journal?
The term Journal refers to a specific type of publication that is produced on a continual basis throughout a year. Journals are not magazines, although both can be described as periodicals or serials because they are issued on an ongoing basis. Magazines are intended for general reading and provide articles of popular interest such as Time or Maclean's. Journals have a narrower focus and are intended for a scholarly or professional audience, like The Lancet and The Canadian Journal of History.
Journal articles are written by scholars or professionals and are intended for others in that field of study. A significant characteristic of most journals is that they have an editorial board and that articles are refereed or peer reviewed. This means that before an article is published, it must be evaluated by experts in that field for authenticity.
The Library provides most of its periodical articles through online databases accessed through the E-Resources page. Many of these databases provide an advanced search feature that selects only peer reviewed materials and allow you to focus your search for scholarly sources.
However, what do you do if the database does not let you limit your search or if your unsure if an article you've found is from a journal? You can always ask a librarian for help, or you can check for some of the characteristics that you should find in a journal article:
The title of the periodical can include (but not always) the terms journal, proceedings, or research, but be careful because Ladies Home Journal is not a scholarly publication
The table of contents shows articles focused on a limited area of scholarship
The editorial board for the periodical is composed of scholars in the field
The periodical is usually published between 2 and 6 times per year, not weekly or monthly like a magazine
The date that the article was submitted for publication is listed
The author is named and their credentials as a professional or expert are presented – often they are affiliated with a university or other institution like a hospital or a research organization
The article is of a significant length, is written in a complex writing style, lists the sources that the author has used, and indicates a depth of research
Finally, it is always a good idea to meet with your teacher to show them how your research has progressed and to discuss the value of the material that you have found. This way, you can be sure that the articles are from scholarly journals and that you're on the right track with the work that you've done.
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