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Periodicals (Databases & Indexes) LRC@TCC

Periodicals are great for up-to-date information on popular topics.

What are they? | Why are they important? | Scholarly vs. Trade vs. Popular | Periodical databases & indexes | Which database to use? | How to read citations | Locating periodicals 

What Are Periodicals?

Periodicals are publications that are issued on a regular basis, e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Common types of periodicals include newspapers, magazines, and journals. 

Why Are They Important? 

Because periodicals are issued frequently, the information they contain is usually more current  than that provided by books. Especially in scientific disciplines, where access to current information is very important, periodicals are the most important medium for the publication of new research and new ideas.  Periodical articles tend to focus on a particular aspect of a subject, rather than trying to cover a topic broadly as a book might do. Periodical articles often provide concise, in depth information on a narrow topic. 

Scholarly Journals ~ Trade Publications ~ Magazines ~ Newspapers 

Your instructor may require that you refer only to scholarly or academic journals in the course of your research.  What is the difference? What are trade publications?

Scholarly journals have few pictures, may contain charts and graphs, and are generally serious in nature. Journals are often published by a group or association and cover a specific topic.

Magazines usually have many pictures, contain articles on many different topics, and have a glossy nature.

If you are unsure whether a particular periodical is scholarly, you should speak to your instructor, who will be able to tell you if it is an acceptable source.

Periodical Databases and Indexes 

Like the index in the back of a book, periodical indexes help you find articles. Electronic versions of indexes are called databases. Most databases contain the entire content of the article and are called full text databases. Some databases do not contain the articles themselves, but provide a citation of all the information necessary to locate the article.  Some databases provide citations and abstracts which are summaries of articles. 

notepadYou cannot search for periodical articles in the library catalog. The catalog will tell you if the library subscribes to a particular periodical, but it will not tell you the contents of individual issues.

Which database to use?

When selecting database, criteria to consider include the subject of your research, the geographical focus, if any, of your topic, and the type of information (scholarly or popular) you require.  Databases are general or subject specific such as health, business, etc. TCC databases by subject.

How to Read Periodical Citations

A citation is a reference to an article (or other information source) that includes enough identifying information for the reader to be able to locate a copy of the item. In order to locate the article (or book) you want, you must be able to read the citation. 

Typically, citations for periodicals include the following information: 

        Author of the article 
        Title of the article 
        Title of the periodical 
        Volume (and issue number) of the periodical 
        Date of publication 
        Page numbers

Different indexes display citations in slightly different ways. The following examples illustrate two possibilities: 

Example 1 

        Hoax of the century 
        Far Eastern Economic Review -- May 15, 1997 
        v160 n120 -- p. 88-89 
        Solomon, Jay 


        Author of the article: Jay Solomon 
        Title of the article: Hoax of the Century 
        Title of the periodical: Far Eastern Economic Review
        Volume number: 160 
        Issue number: 120 
        Date of publication: May 15, 1997 
        Page numbers: 88-89


Example 2 

        Lazar, Bonnie A. ; Why social work should care: Television violence and children. / (In Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal 1994 Feb Vol 11 (1) 3-19) 


        Author of the article: Bonnie A. Lazar 
        Title of the article: Why social work should care: Television violence and children 
        Title of the periodical: Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal 
        Volume number: 11 
        Issue number: 1 
        Date of publication: February 1994 
        Page numbers: 3-19

Locating periodical articles

Once you have identified the article(s) you need, your next step is to locate the article(s). It may be full-text in the database. If not, it is important to remember that no library subscribes to every periodical that is printed. If a particular periodical is not available in your library, it may be available from another library. 

Databases- Begin with a search in our favorite databases.

Online- Do a publication name search for a particular journal or citation.

In print- Search the library catalog to see if the library subscribes to the print version of the periodical you need. Search for the title of the periodical, NOT the title of the article. 

Another campus- If the periodical is at another campus you can request that the issue be sent to you by completing an intercampus loan form. Materials from other campuses normally arrive in two to three days.

Any other library-If the periodical is not available at your college it may be available to be borrowed from another library by interlibrary loan. Interlibrary loan materials normally take three days to arrive.  For more information, please speak to a librarian or reference assistant. 

Reprinted & adapted with permission from
Ross Tyner's Electronic Information Literacy.