Magazines or Journals

Use magazines when you need current information on popular topics, and use journals when you need scholarly information, including research studies. Both are periodicals, meaning they are published periodically or regularly, and publications of each type may have a broad or subject-specific focus. For example, Sports Illustrated magazine covers the broad topic of sports while Basketball magazine is all guessed it...the narrower topic of basketball. Or, the Journal of the American Medical Association covers a broad range of current information and research in the health care field while the Journal of Pediatric Nursing focuses on information and research about nursing care of children.

Magazines are usually published weekly or monthly and contain articles written by journalists and sometimes by subject experts. On the other hand, journals are usually published monthly or quarterly, and the articles are written by scholars who are topic experts or researchers. Usually, an editorial board reviews journal articles before they are accepted for publication. Additionally, journal articles may be reviewed by other experts on the same subject through a process called peer review.


When do I use a magazine or journal?
Use a magazine when you need the following:

  • up-to-date information on a popular topic (e.g., gardening, current political event)
  • information or opinions about popular culture

Use a journal when you need the following:

  • to find out what has been studied on your topic (e.g., horticulture, political science)
  • to find relevant sources that are listed in bibliographies at the end of articles

Where do I find a magazine or journal?
Your school or public library will likely have a small collection of print magazines and maybe a few journals. Also, the libraries likely subscribe to databases that contain magazine or journal articles. Some magazines or journals make some of their articles available on their website for free, but others put them behind a pay wall, meaning you have to pay to access them. To find publications on the Internet, use a search engine to search for a specific title.  

How is a magazine or journal organized?
Print versions of both periodical types have a table of contents at the beginning. Often, they have standard sections. For example, a magazine might have a section for letters to the editor while a journal might have a section about new research.

How do I use a print magazine or journal?
Think about what information you need. Look up your topic or keywords in a periodicals index, a publication that helps readers know what articles are in what publications and which issues of those publications. There's an online version of a periodicals index, although your library may have to subscribe to it for access. Once you locate the print magazine or journal you need, go to the page listed in the periodicals index or scan through the table of contents to find the specific article/s on your topic.

How do I use an online magazine or journal?
Online magazines or journals may be exact replicas of the equivalent print edition. Increasingly, some are published exclusively online. Some publication websites only post articles from the current issue, while others post back issues. Most publication websites can be browsed for casual reading or searched to find specific information.

How do I use a database to find magazine or journal articles?
Searching a database by topic will result in sources from magazines, journals, newspapers, eBooks, and more. Most databases' advanced search feature allows your search to be limited by the type of source you are looking for. You can also limit your source by date of article or by magazine or journal title.