Image of National Enquirer

Periodical Articles:
From Sensational to Scholarly

Image of the Journal of the American Medical Association

Many types of periodical literature exist. Magazines, journals, and newspapers are all periodicals. You may be asked by your instructor to use a particular type of periodical literature for your research papers and projects. This page is meant to help you determine the difference between the types so you can choose the right kind.

We can divide the world of periodical literature into five general classifications:

    1. Sensational
    2. Popular
    3. Substantive News or General Interest
    4. Technical or Trade
    5. Scholarly

Let's take a comparative look at some of their characteristics:

Criteria

Sensational

Popular

Substantive News or
General Interest

Trade
or
Technical

Scholarly

Examples:

Image of National Enquirer

National Enquirer
Globe
Star

Image of People Weekly

People Weekly
Redbook
GQ

Image of N ational Geographic  magazine

National Geographic
Business Week
Organic Gardener

Image of Archaeology magazine

Archaeology
Geotimes
Aviation Week & Space Technology

Image of the Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal/ Am Medical Assn
Harvard Business Review
Nature

Layout or Formatting

Eye-grabbing. Usually published on newsprint.

Slick paper, lots of color, attractive layout.

Slick paper, attractive layout.

Attractive appearance. Slick or plain paper.

Very plain and serious looking. Typically uses plain paper.

Images

A great number of photos & illustrations to get your attention.

Has many color photographs & graphics to pique your interest.

Has photographs & graphics to add visual appeal.

May have some illustrative color or black and white photos & graphics

Minimal, plain graphics used to illustrate or explain information. Color used sparingly.

Advertising

Extensive advertising for a wide range of products.

A great deal of ads for a wide range of products.

Moderate number of ads for a range of products.

Moderate product & service ads targeted to a specific profession or field.

None, or very selective, targeting other scholars.

Language

Plain and easy to read.

Plain language, fairly easy to read.

Plain language, but often assuming a higher level of education and/or familiarity with the topic.

Uses terminology and jargon of the field, but less formally.

Uses terminology, jargon and the language of the discipline area.

Depth and Breadth of Publications

Very shallow coverage of a wide variety of topics.

Fairly shallow coverage of a wide variety of topics.

Shallow to moderate coverage of a more narrowly defined range of topics.

Shallow to moderate coverage with topics of interest to a particular field.

In-depth. Narrow range of topics covered.

Depth and Breadth of Articles

Very shallow treatment.

Fairly shallow.

Shallow to moderately in-depth exploration of a topic.

Shallow to moderately in-depth excoriation of a topic.

Usually extremely narrow in focus as articles go into great depth.

Credibility

None.

Limited.

Moderate.

Fairly high.

Very high, particularly if peer-reviewed.

Readership

General public.

General public.

Educated public.

Assumed to have some training in the field.

Assumed to have a background in the same field.

Article Length

Short.

Short.

Short and long.

Short and long.

Mostly long.

Sources Cited

Sources not cited.

Sources usually not cited.

 

Sometimes cited in the text only.

Often cited in the text, sometimes with footnotes or a bibliography.

Extensive citations to sources, with footnotes or text references & bibliography.

Authors

Staff writers.

Staff or free-lance.

Staff or free-lance.

Staff or freelance writers working in the field.

Written by scholars or researchers in the field.

Purpose

Provide entertainment.

Provide entertainment.

Provide general information.

Provide news & other items (like job ads) for those in a particular field.

To report on original research and to advance scholarship in a field.

Publishers

Published by commercial enterprises.

Published by commercial enterprises.

Usually published by commercial enterprises.

Often published by professional or trade associations.

Usually published by professional, trade, or research organizations.

Primary or Secondary Source?

Articles are secondary sources.

Articles are secondary sources.

Articles are usually secondary sources.

Articles are mostly secondary sources.

Articles reporting original research are primary sources.

Compiled by Tara Severns 01/26/04