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Defining Databases and Journals

Databases - What are they?

Databases are primarily collections of online journals that you can search for articles.

Databases are often subject-specific. Example: PsycINFO database specializes in psychology/counseling.

Many contain the entire text of articles, but some only contain abstracts, which you can use to find the article elsewhere (check the Journal Finder to see which, if any, of our databases contain that journal or request the article through InterLibrary Loan).

Scholarly Journals - What are they?

Scholarly journals (also called "professional" or "peer reviewed" journals) are a type of periodical. Other types of periodicals are magazines and newspapers.

Most college instructors require that the majority of articles for a research paper be from scholarly journals.

Finding scholarly journals

Check the Journal Finder to find the availability and location of specific periodicals on our collection.

Most online databases contain a limiter you can select so results only show certain types of journals. For best results, select "Journal Article" in the "Document Type" limiter (if it is available), as well as the "Peer Reviewed"* limiter.
*Items such as "letters to the editor," book reviews, etc., are not peer reviewed, although they are found in peer reviewed journals.

Characteristics of Scholarly Journals

  • Articles report on original research or experiments (as opposed to news or opinion pieces).
  • Articles written by a scholar/author who has done research in a particular field or discipline.
  • Language is technical and specialized.
  • Sources cited in the form of footnotes or bibliographies.
  • Often published by universities or professional societies.

If in doubt, ask your instructor or a librarian whether it is a scholarly journal.

Examples of Scholarly Journals

  • JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Review of Metaphysics
  • Religious Education

Examples of Periodicals that are not Scholarly Journals:

News magazines such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report.
Can be useful in providing an introduction to a current topic, but do not provide the same analysis as scholarly journals.

Opinion magazines like New Republic, National Review and The Nation.
Comment on current events and offer a particular viewpoint on world affairs, politics, and cultural matters.

Popular magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Christianity Today, Reader's Digest and Good Housekeeping.
Attractive and entertaining, but are usually not appropriate as sources for an academic paper.

Trade journals like Beverage World, Dealer-Scope Merchandising, Automotive News and Progressive Grocer.
Designed to inform the reader on current trends in an industry. Trade journals may or may not be acceptable - ask your professor to find out.