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Journals: What is a Journal?

This guide provides an introduction and brief overview of journals and academic publications.

What is a Journal?

Journals are periodical publications containing articles related to a particular subject area, or academic discipline. Journals are published at set intervals throughout a calendar year (monthly, quarterly, biannually, etc.) and are each assigned a unique volume number and issue number that typically identify the number of years the publication has been circulating, and how many times the journal has been published (which interval) so far that year. 

Articles contained within academic scholarly journals have undergone a process known as peer review. Peer review is a double-blind evaluation of scholarly articles prior to publication, ensuring that the research quality meets the set standards of a given discipline. Experts in the field are asked by journal editors to take on a kind of gatekeeper role to assess the quality of the research. These peer reviewers test for accuracy and validity, and will often ask for some revisions. At the end of this process, an article is either accepted for publication, or declined. Increasingly, journal articles may be assigned unique identifiers known as DOIs, that assist in retrieving and citing them.

The peer review process is what separates academic journals from popular journals. Popular journals are generally more opinion-based and journalistic in style. Peer review evaluation is not required for articles published in popular journals.

Most journal access requires a subscription -- either through an institution, or a private subscription. VIU Library currently provides full-text access to over 80,000 journals. Historically, library stacks were lined with large collections of print journals. Nowadays, the majority of journal access is online, with eJournals and eArticles. The increased demand for electronic resources has surpassed the popularity of bound journals and printed articles. That being said, there remains a small number of print journals that VIU Library subscribes to, including some local community zines, and smaller independent journals that do not have electronic versions available. 

Open access (OA) journals have been steadily increasing in numbers and popularity, particularly within the sciences. The open data movement continues to gain traction among scholars and researchers in Canada and around the world, as many of these journals are implementing a peer review process. Peer review has increased the credibility of many OA journals.

Looking for a Specific Journal?

Journals A-Z is the most efficient tool to use when you have found a journal reference to an article from a course reading list, a bibliography in a book, or another article, and want to track it down. It's also possible to browse by Subject.

Interlibrary loan is a process for obtaining journals/articles to which the VIU Library does not have access to - by getting them in for you from another library.

Reference & Instructional Librarian

Andie Tomlinson's picture
Andie Tomlinson
Contact:
Vancouver Island University Library
900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo
British Columbia, V9R 5S5, Canada

Andie.Tomlinson@viu.ca

(250) 753-3245 Ext. 6333