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How to do Research

Research is a process of inquiry: Asking questions, following the answers

Articles: Specific arguments, experiments, analysis, reporting on events

Articles are published in periodicals. Periodicals, as collections of articles, are issued on a regular frequency: daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, annually. Most articles will be fairly short, compared to books, and will cover some very specific detail, event, experiment, analysis, criticism, or discussion of the issue or problem. There are three general types of periodicals: newspapers or newsletters, magazines, and journals. Each type has easily identifiable characteristics, as described below. Many periodicals are available online, sometimes for free but sometimes for a fee. Some print periodicals are available in the library, but most of the articles you need for research assignments can be found in our online research databases, listed on the "A-Z List" page, see link below. 


A JOURNAL is a periodical that only publishes articles after they have passed a rigorous editing and review process, called the “blind review” or “peer review.” Journals following this procedure are also known as “refereed” or sometimes “vetted” journals. Articles under consideration have the author’s name removed and are submitted to other experts in that subject field, who evaluate the content, accuracy, and importance of the article, and provide their criticisms and comments. If the article passes the review, it is returned to the author for revisions, after which it may be published. Journals may also be called “academic journals,” “scholarly journals,” “research journals,” or “scholarly research journals.”

All JOURNAL articles provide citations to the sources of information the author used as a basis for research and to write the article. Citations may appear as footnotes or at the end of the article as “Bibliography,” “Works Cited,” or “References.”

Most JOURNAL articles are lengthy, and assume a certain degree of knowledge on the part of the reader. Specialized terminology may be used. Statistical tests used will not be explained; only their significance and conclusions drawn from the tests will be discussed.

Most JOURNALS will provide a sidebar or footnote, or a separate section, with information about the author’s credentials as a scholar, researcher, or professional. Or, the author’s affiliation with a university or research institute is given.

Most JOURNALS are published by, or sponsored by, a university, research lab, professional association, or a non-profit organization.

Most JOURNALS will have a section near the front or the back of each issue that lists their editorial board and the reviewers, with the professional affiliation of each member. Many will also include submission guidelines, which will indicate how rigorous the review process is.

Generally, JOURNALS do not accept advertisements. Revenue to support publication is from the SPONSOR, which is usually a university or research institute or think tank, and from subscription fees. Journals are often very expensive. If there are advertisements, they will usually be for other scholarly publications, or for conference announcements.

Some may have the word “journal,” “review,” “bulletin,” or “research” in their title. However, this is the least reliable way to determine if the periodical is a research journal or not. Some journals have a long established history and reputation for excellence and are well known by scholars and scientists in that field.

Most JOURNALS are careful to avoid bias. However, be aware that some non-profit organizations or “think tanks” have explicit political or social agendas, which may be reflected in the articles published.

JOURNALS are read by students, professionals, scholars, instructors and faculty, and other researchers. Within each profession or subject field, there is usually a group of “core” journals considered essential reading by all those in the profession or field of study.

Just as there is fake news, fake or "deepfake" videos, there are also fake journals. Most fake journals are scams designed to cheat trusting nerdy academics out of their hard-earned money, but some are used by unethical academics to inflate their resumes. Visit the Bias, Fake News, Hoaxes, and Lies" guide and view the tab section for Science - Errors and Corrections to learn more.

Another good reason to rely on library sources- most library databases are careful not to include fake journals. Searching on the internet, even using Google Scholar, you might find fake journal articles and not realize it. The trend in college classes is to require "peer-reviewed" journals or journal articles found in library databases.


MAGAZINES are the periodicals that most people are familiar with, and are often called “consumer,” “popular,” or “mass market” periodicals. These are the periodicals you see at the supermarket, the drugstore, or the newsstand. Many people subscribe to magazines. Magazines are useful for news and trends, for information that is very current and up to date. Magazines also will often report on the findings of researchers and scientists, which were originally published in journals, but the articles in the magazines will be much easier to read. Magazines are often fairly inexpensive, and many are considered a form of entertainment rather than a source of information. There are some magazines called "trade" periodicals, that are more technical and focused on a specific career path, profession, or trade, such as welding, carpentry, computers, police science, etc.

Most MAGAZINE articles do not provide citations to their sources of information. Articles may refer to the original researcher by name, or may only indicate where the research was done. For example, the article may state, “Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that …"

Most MAGAZINE articles are short, and the language is usually simple to understand. As a general rule, magazine articles are written to accommodate a sixth to ninth grade reading level. Most articles are continued through several pages, to give the reader more exposure to the advertisements.

In MAGAZINE articles, many times the author’s name is not given. If the author is listed, usually the author is a journalist, not a scholar or researcher. However, many journalists specialize in certain subjects and are quite knowledgeable.

Most MAGAZINES are published by for-profit organizations or businesses. Many magazine publishers are part of large media corporations.

Editors of MAGAZINES are comparable to business managers. Each magazine will have its own standards for grammar, usage, and spelling. Selection of articles to publish is influenced by fads, trends, or by the major advertisers to the magazine.

All MAGAZINES actviely solicit advertisements. This is how they make a profit and stay in business. Many times it may be difficult to distinguish the ads from the articles. Also, many magazines have special theme issues, and they will notify advertisers in advance. So, you may often notice that the ads and the articles seem to agree.

Titles of MAGAZINES are selected to be attention getting. Many magazines are famous, or have a known reputation or notoriety.

Many MAGAZINES are known for their social or political bias. If you are not familiar with the magazine, read the articles critically. Notice any emphasis on excessivly positivie or negative language in discussions of controversial issues. Look for alternative views in other magazines or in journals.

MAGAZINES are read by everyone: workers, householders, students, children, hobbyists, crafters, sports enthusiasts, fans and followers, etc. There is a magazine for almost every possible human interest.

What about newspapers? What about the Internet?

NEWSPAPER articles tend to be short and report one fact, event, or recent change: what has happened this last hour, day, or week. This can make it difficult to get the "big picture" or to understand how the issue has changed over time. A few major newspapers may offer more “in-depth” reporting. Some are known for their bias. Read newspaper articles about political or social issues carefully and critically. Editorials are solely the editor’s opinion, but can be helpful for finding pro/con arguments.

INTERNET sources can be “here today – gone tomorrow.” Many sites are an expression of personal bias, an excuse to advertise a product, or just plain phony.  Some phony sites are satire or political or social commentary, or just a gag, or even dangeours sites designed to lure the user to "click here!" Look at the criteria listed on the tabs in this guide, and use those to judge the worth of a website. Who is the target audience, how long are the articles, are there citations to sources? Are there any ads? Look for the date, the author, editor, or sponsor. Look for signs of bias. Use your common sense, and find other sites or other sources to compare.