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Academic v popular: What is a journal?

A journal (or serial or magazine) is published in a numbered sequence, usually on a regular basis, eg weekly, monthly, bimonthly, quarterly.

Each issue of a journal consists of a number of papers (articles) each by a different author or group of authors; the issues are often combined into volumes.

Journal articles in academic (scholarly) journals provide up-to-date information on current research on a specific subject. 


What is the difference between a journal and a magazine?

 Academic journalsPopular magazines
Audience                                Academics, professionals & practitioners.

General audience.

AuthorsExperts or noted professionals (credentials and the institution that the authors are affiliated with are often supplied).Often written by journalists, or an anonymous author (credentials may not be supplied).
PurposeUsually report original research.Focus on current events and topics of general interest.
StructureUsually longer articles with in-depth analysis of topics & research results.
Usually has an introduction, methodology, results & conclusion.
Usually short articles, using language easily understood by general readers.
Usually reports opinion in a story format.
ReferencesA bibliography or list of references is usually included at the end of an article.Do not usually include a bibliography, or fully cite their sources.
Quality control

Articles are reviewed by peers (other experts in the subject area) for research accuracy before accepted for publication ie peer review or refereeing.
Editorial boards consist of scholars in the subject area.

Usually no official peer review although the magazine editor might review the article.
PublisherUsually sponsored or published by an institution or professional organisation.

Usually published by a company.

Different types of articles/papers

What is the difference between a research paper and a review paper?


Stop and think

'Scholarly' doesn't always guarantee quality. Find out why in the section on Peer review.

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