WRIT 250: Advanced Composition

Ways to find journal and articles

Journal vs. Journal Article

What is a journal? a journal article? a database?

These are the questions that generally come up when doing early assignments in WRIT 250.

To explain, here is an example citation:

Shaunessy-Dedrick, E., Suldo, S. M., Roth, R. A., & Fefer, S. A. (2015). Students' perceptions of factors that contribute to risk and success in accelerated high school courses. The High School Journal98(2), 109-137.

Journal Article: Students' perceptions of factors that contribute to risk and success in accelerated high school courses.

Journal: The High School Journal

And, the journal The High School Journal appears in several databases (e.g., Academic Search Premier).

So, journal articles appear in journals.

And, journals appear in databases.

Kinds of Journals

Academic, Scholarly, and Peer-Reviewed Journals

Academic journals are published by university departments, research groups, think tanks, professional organizations, and large publishing companies. For example, a publisher might be the Department of Education at Eastern Kentucky University, Wiley-Blackwell, or the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis.


The purpose of academic journals is to advance knowledge and improve the world. Academic and scholarly journals print long articles with bibliographies that explain new research, review research, or interpret and analyze work. They often have a methodology section, a literature review, and a results section. They normally have information about the authors attached to the articles. Academic authors are professors or professionals with advanced degrees who are currently working in that field.


Peer-reviewed articles are from journals that have articles evaluated closely by experts in that field before publishing them.  However, some journals that are labeled “peer-reviewed” will also include editorials and book reviews that are not peer-reviewed.

sample journal cover         academic journal cover          academic journal cover

Trade Journals

Trade journals are published by professional organizations or publishing companies. A publisher might be the Canadian Institute of Certified Public Accountants, for example.


The purpose of most trade journals is to help people be better at their jobs. Trade journals print shorter articles which may or may not have bibliographies. They are written by professionals for an audience of other professionals, about issues related to their jobs. Articles might be about “how we solved this problem” or introduce a new technology. Feature articles might be longer and in-depth, while other articles might be short and newsy.

 trade journal cover                trade journal cover              trade journal cover

Popular magazines

Popular magazines are usually published by large publishing companies, such as Hearst or Conde Nast.


Articles in some popular magazines are superficial, short, or centered around personal stories. Authors of articles might be good writers, but they are not professionals in the field that they are writing about.


Some magazines have good reputations for producing well-researched articles by professional journalists, such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, or New Republic. Some articles from those magazines might be worthy of citing in a college paper. Magazines more geared toward entertainment or “awareness-raising” would be Good Housekeeping, Cosmo, Field and Stream, and so on, and they would not be good sources for college papers.