Journals and magazines are important sources for up-to-date information in all disciplines. Because we get many different types of periodicals, it can be difficult to distinguish between the various levels of scholarship found in the collection. In this guide, the criteria for periodical literature is divided into four categories:
1) Scholarly, 2) Substantive News or General Interest, 3) Popular, and 4) Sensational.
“Substantive” is defined as “having a solid base, being substantial.”
“Popular” means “fit for, or reflecting the taste and intelligence of the people at large.”
“Sensational” is defined as “arousing or intending to arouse strong curiosity, interest or reaction.”
Keeping these definitions in mind, and realizing that none of the lines drawn between types of journals can ever be totally clear cut, we can say that in general the criteria are as follows:
These periodicals may be quite attractive in ppearance, although some are in newspaper format. Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs.
News and general interest periodicals sometimes cite sources, though more often do not.
The language of these publications is geared to any educated audience. There is no specialty assumed, only interest and certain level of intelligence.
Popular periodicals come in many formats, although often somewhat slick and attractive in appearance. They include lots of graphics (photographs, drawings, etc.).
Information published in such journals is often second or third hand and the original source is sometimes obscure.
They assume a certain gullibility in their audience.
They often do so with flashy headlines designed to astonish (e.g.,“Half-man Half-woman Makes Self Pregnant”).
Authority - Is the website based on reputable and reliable sources? Is there a bibilography? Are there citations? Is the author of the website an expert on this subject?
Objectivity - Is the website free of bias? Who is responsible for the website? Are you getting an educated version of this topic, or is it just opinion?
Currency - Has the page been updated recently enough so that it reflects the most current data? Is there a date to indicate that this page is regularly evaluated and maintained?
Coverage - Does the website have valid information on the topic? Is it free of typos and errors? Does the page have a professional look and free of advertising? Are there links to other worthwhile websites?