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Using Periodicals

Starting Points

Evaluating a Journal for Quality

A journal is considered more rigorous and scholarly if it is peer reviewed. Most article databases allow you to narrow your search to peer-reviewed journals.

Here are other factors to consider when evaluating journals:

  • Is it published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society or association or by a university program or department?
  • Is it published by an academic press (such as University of Chicago Press or Oxford University Press)?
  • Are the reviewers or an editorial board listed on the journal's web site (example) or within the journal?
  • Availability online in well-regarded archives such as JSTOR or Project MUSE

The Impact Factor

The Impact Factor, available in Journal Citation Reports, and other citation analysis tools serves as an indicator of the 'quality,' 'impact,' 'prestige,' or 'influence' of a journal.  Though somewhat controversial, Impact Factors, which rank journals within a discipline, are used widely in the sciences. 

The controversy surrounding the Impact Factor (IF) revolves around the possibility that publishers and/or authors may manipulate the data to produce a higher IF (e.g., self-citations, including more review articles, etc.), and that the formula for calculating the Impact Factor, while it may work well for some disciplines, may be misleading in others.

Please note that using the Impact Factor to compare journal ranks from disparate disciplines is not valid, due to variations in publishing cycles, citation rates, the size of the field, etc.

For more information about Impact Factors or other citation analysis tools, please contact the Crerar Reference Librarians.