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SPARK: Journals

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.


Journals (a type of periodical) are scholarly collections of articles that are published frequently. Researchers and scholars publish the results of their research studies or latest theories in journals for other researchers/scholars to review. Since journals are published periodically (monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly) they are useful for finding the most current perspectives on a particular issue or topic.

Magazines are also published periodically, but they are not academic in nature.

How can you tell the difference?

Scholarly journals (e.g., Journal of Social Work, Public Finance Review) share the following traits:

  • usually have an “abstract”
  • tend to be longer in length
  • may have charts or graphs
  • contain minimal advertising
  • usually available at a university library or through a subscription
  • sometimes called peer-reviewed or refereed

Types of articles found include: reports of recent research, interpretive essays, reviews, criticisms, empirical studies, historical studies, literature reviews, review essays, book reviews, meta-analyses, editor’s introduction/comments.

Popular magazines (e.g., Maclean’s, Time, Vogue) share the following traits:

  • no abstract
  • usually brief
  • contain lots of photographs/images/colour
  • contain lots of advertising
  • available everywhere – supermarket to newsagent

Types of articles found include: news reports, essays, how-tos, interviews, opinion pieces, book reviews, discussions of reports, editorials, investigative journal articles, feature articles, columns, discussions of new products

Elements of a Journal Article

Watch this short video on the various elements of a journal and how to quickly review them for useful ideas and information.