Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


Your guide to finding high quality academic literature


What is a journal?

Journals are a lot like ordinary magazines - they are collections of articles written by different authors, and they are published regularly throughout the year.  (This is why libraries call them serials or periodicals.)  They can be separated into three major groups - Academic, Professional/Trade, and Popular.

  • Academic journals are collections of articles written by experts in an academic or professional field to report current research findings or review developments.
  • They are often peer reviewed.  This means that each article goes through a process of review by one or more independent experts in the subject area.  
  • Peer reviewed articles are also sometimes called scholarly or refereed articles.
Credibility High
Audience Researchers, scholars, professionals
Useful for Academic research
Examples Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Sociology, Review of Educational Research
  • Professional or Trade journals provide industry specific information for professionals working in the field.
  • They are not peer reviewed and do not usually report on original research.
Credibility Moderate
Audience Practitioners, professionals, members of a specific industry
Useful for Industry trends, new products or techniques, organisational news, advice and tips for those in the trade

Business Review Weekly, Nursing Review, Architectural Digest, Teacher, Pharmacy News, Marine Business

  • Popular magazines are collections of articles about topics of general interest that are written for non-professionals.
  • Many cover serious subjects and may even contain some scholarly information, but they do not have the same standards of academic rigour as journals.
Credibility Low to moderate
Audience Public
Useful for Recent events, popular culture, scientific / political / social issues of general interest
Examples Who, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, New Scientist, The Economist, National Geographic, Time

How do I find out if a journal is peer reviewed?

Many of the library databases allow you to limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.  Look for a check box that says Peer Reviewed or Scholarly (Peer Reviewed).

If you want to find out whether a journal is peer reviewed, you can:

  • Google the journal title and check the publishers website, or
  • Search for the journal title in Ulrichsweb. Ulrich's Directory uses an icon that looks like a striped referee's shirt to indicate a peer reviewed (or refereed) journal.

Here is a screenshot from Ulrich's Directory, showing that Astronomy & Geophysics is a peer reviewed journal, while Popular Astronomy and Modern Astronomy are not (they are Popular magazines for amateur astronomers).

Screenshot from Ulrichs


How do I find journal articles?

  • One way to find journal articles quickly is to use MegaSearch.  Use the Refine Results options on the left of the results screen to focus your search results.

  • Or, for an even more focused search, try using a subject specific database.  You will find a selection of these in the Suggested Databases section of this guide.