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Social Work: Evaluating Journals

A guide to selected resources for the ASU School of Social Work created by Debbie Abston

Magazines, Journals and Trade Publications

Specific Sources: Articles in Journals, Magazines and Trade Publications

At first glance

By glancing at the article, you can easily find information to begin evaluating it. This information may include:

Author's name

  • Remember, knowing who wrote the article, and information about them, can help you determine if the information is reliable.

When was it published?

  • Keep in mind that depending on your topic the age of the material may be important.

In what type of publication did the article appear and who was the intended audience?

  • Was it a magazine article written for a general audience?
  • Was it a scholarly journal article written for the academic audience?
  • Was it a trade publication article written for practitioners in the field?

Caution: The requirements of your assignment will usually dictate the type of publications that you can use as sources for your paper.

A closer look

Several clues can help you determine if an article is from a popular magazine. They are usually:

Written for a general audience

  • Look at the level of detail
  • There are fewer technical terms
  • The writer is not assuming that you have prior knowledge of the subject

Shorter and contain no bibliographies

Written by staff writers or journalists

  • There is often no author listed
  • The writer is usually not an expert on the subject

Published on glossy paper in a magazine with lots of advertising

  • If you find an article in a full-text database and are uncertain if it is from a popular magazine, consult a librarian.

Examples: Time, Psychology Today, Discover, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated

Why use popular magazine articles?

There are several reasons that you might want to use articles from popular magazines as sources for your research:

Assignment requirements

Timeliness - they are good sources for information on current events

Use them to:

  • Understand the topic better
  • Identify major researchers in the field
  • Identify major issues related to your topic
  • Narrow your topic

A closer look

Several clues can help you determine if an article is from a scholarly journal. They are usually:

Written by experts in the field

  • The author and the author's affiliation are usually identified on the first page

Written for researchers and professionals in a particular field

  • They are more detailed than popular magazine articles
  • It is assumed that you know something about the subject

Written to report the results of a research study

  • Look for an abstract or summary of the article
  • Look for sections labeled "methods" or "results"
  • Look for a review of the literature

Reviewed by experts in the field

  • A group of experts have determined that the article is scholarly and that the research is valid
  • This process is called "peer review" or "editorial review"
  • Hint: look in the front or back of the journals for these clues:
    • A listing of Editorial Board members
    • "Instruction for Authors" or "Guidelines for Submission" that indicate that articles are reviewed

Long, and will contain bibliographies or footnotes

Published on plain paper in a journal format with little or no advertising

  • Again, if you find an article in a full-text database and are uncertain if it is from a scholarly journal, consult a librarian.

Examples: Nature, Science, Foreign Affairs, American Journal of Sociology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, Journal of the American Chemical Society

Hint: the word "journal" usually will indicate that it is scholarly, but it is not always part of the title

A closer look

Why use scholarly journal articles?

There are several reasons that you might want to use articles from scholarly journals as sources for your research:

Assignment requirements

They are more current than books

They update the research in a field

They are written by people who are doing the research

 

 

A closer look

Several clues can help you identify if an article is from a trade magazine. They are usually:

Written for practitioners in a field or members of a specific industry, business or organization

  • They assume prior knowledge of the subject
  • There is not a high level of detail in the coverage

Written by staff writers or practitioners in a field

  • There is often no author listed
  • The writer knows a lot about the subject, but usually does not conduct original research

About industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news

Examples: Science News, Advertising Age, Publisher's Weekly, Supermarket News, Chemical and Engineering News

Why use trade magazine articles?

There are several reasons that you might want to use articles from trade magazines as sources for your research:

Industry trends

  • They are good for industry analysis

They are a good way to see what is going on in a field.

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