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Psychology: Evaluating Articles

Evaluating Articles

Harmon, C. (Ed.). (2002). Using the internet, online services, and cd-roms for writing research and term papers (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers: What's the Difference?

The Prince George's Community College Library collection contains magazines, journals, and newspapers. An assignment may require that articles be found in journals, not magazines and newspapers. What is the difference?

A magazine may be up-to-date, retrospective, and informative, but the articles are not based on in-depth research. Magazines are often full of large color photos. The articles are most often written by journalists and sometimes may be unsigned. The main purpose of magazines is to provide light coverage on topics of popular interest. Examples of magazines are:

  • People Weekly
  • TV Guide
  • Good Housekeeping

A journal contains articles that are based on research in a particular field. The authors of the articles are experts and scholars in the subject. Journal articles are scholarly, may be peer-reviewed or refereed, often lengthy, and may contain tables and graphs that support the author's discussion. Journal articles usually conclude with a list of references, called a bibliography, which are the sources from which the author did research. Examples of journals are:

  • Political Science Quarterly
  • Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
  • Journal of Asian Studies

Newspapers tend to be more current because they are published more frequently. A newspaper does not cover information in-depth on an issue but describes events as they occur. Many newspapers tend to focus on geographic news from a local perspective.

Full Text vs. Abstract/Citation Only

The articles that are in the research databases are electronic copies of research articles that originally appeared in print. Most of the publishers that license their articles to research databases allow access to the full-text of their articles. However, some publishers do not. Those that do not (a small percentage) allow only the citation and/or abstract.


An abstract includes a summary of the research or article. It is intended to give the reader an idea of what will be found within the article. An abstract explains the problem or topic the article is addressing. It may also briefly discuss the findings of the research as well as the method used in acquiring the information. An abstract is generally just a short paragraph.


A full-text article includes a title page, abstract, body (including methodology, results, and discussion), conclusion and references. A full article is generally several pages in length. 

Limiting Search Results to Full-Text

You can limit your results to full-text only. Check the box on the database that says “full-text only”. All full-text articles will contain the citation information needed to cite the source.

If an article is not available in full-text, it may be available in another database. Search the Periodicals Locator by the title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper. This may show a full-text result in another database.