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Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion

What are Periodicals?

Periodicals are collections of articles that are published at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly). You are likely familiar with many periodicals already, such as newspapers and magazines, and hopefully also with scholarly journals.

Articles can be valuable source of information, not only do they present information in bite-size chunks, they actually save you time. Often if a scholar in religious studies has an idea for a book, they will first present the idea as an article. When the book finally comes out, you will be able to casually mention having read it when it was still a new idea.

There are three different types of periodicals:



Scholarly Journals

Contain articles that have original research or theories. They have in depth coverage of a narrow aspect of a topic. They have a greater degree of analysis than other periodicals and are more up to date than books and provide lists of sources to consult.. 

Popular Journals (Magazines)

Contain articles that present factual information and begin to analyze data but are not sources for theories. They are useful when you need fairly current information on an event and are best used as primary source material for current popular opinion and news coverage.


Contain short articles that present extremely current information. Newspapers are very useful as primary source material. Keep in mind that stories reported as events come to light, many of which are later disproved or understood differently.

Comparing Periodicals

Though it is usually quite simple to distinguish a newspaper from magazines and journals, it is not always so easy to distinguish between scholarly and popular periodicals (i.e. magazines). The following table outlines the difference between periodicals and should help you to recognize scholarly and popular articles.




Expert in the field - name and credentials will be included

Journalist - name is often listed, but credentials rarely are

Reporters - name might be listed, credentials almost never






There will be references to other scholarly works through the use of footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography

There are rarely references or bibliographies

Almost never


Jargon of the field

Layperson’s terms

Layperson’s terms


Scholars and students in the field

General public

General public


Original research, theories, or analysis

Summary, presentation of facts (as they appear at the time), beginning of analysis

Summary, overview, presentation of facts (as they appear at the time)


Often academic institute

Media corporation

Media corporation

(how long after the events it is published?)





Longer - more than five pages

Shorter - 1-5 pages

Short - usually less than one page


There is usually a formal style to every article which often includes an article abstract, an introduction and conclusion as well as bibliographic information

There is not often a structured format

Broken into long narrow columns


Support the point of the article with charts, graphics, statistics, illustrations, etc.

Often glossy photos or advertising

Photos are often advertising or illustration, rarely graphs or diagrams


If any, will be in regards to the field

Can be about anything

Can be about anything


Hypatia, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Maclean’s, Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics, Time, Newsweek

Calgary Herald, Globe and Mail, National Post


For more information on how to distinguish periodicals from each other, see


If you have found a source that is unusual check with:

  • A librarian
  • Your professor

Referred Journals

If a journal is refereed, that means articles have been sent to other experts in the field for review. In non-refereed periodicals, articles are edited but not necessarily for content or for the validity of a theory.