COMM 700, Research Methods in Communication
Instructor: Ross Collins

What is a journal article in communication?

Academic researchers normally consider only refereed journal articles in their search for background on a topic of their interest. But what is a journal, and how does it differ from popular, or even academic, magazines?

The difference centers on the manuscript evaluation process. Articles published in research journals normally are "peer reviewed"; that is, the journal editor sends submissions to two or more academic experts in the subject. These reviewers offer an opinion as to whether the article meets standards of the discipline, and merits publication because it adds to the state of knowledge in the field.

Secondly, most journals include primarily research, that is, new material generated through use of accepted research methods and data. Essays and articles may be included, but usually they are clearly labeled as such, and separate from research pieces.

How can you tell the difference between research and popular periodicals? Try this checklist.

Scholarly or research journals in communication usually:

Popular magazines, on the other hand:

It's true some magazines fall between the two areas, including long, extensively-researched pieces. Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and American Heritage spring to mind. However, these magazines normally distinguish themselves clearly from research journals because they don't rely on a formal peer-review process.