In some of your courses, you may be required to write research papers using journals, but no magazines. What is the difference? The essential difference is the qualifications of the people who write and edit them. As a newcomer to your field, however, you may have trouble distinguishing which is which, or who is who. The fact that the title may have the word "journal" in it is not a sufficient indicator. Ladies Home Journal is a magazine, not a journal. As you progress in your field, your instructors should help you distinguish which is which, but there are some things you can look for.
Almost all of the material in journals
is written by specialists, for specialists. JAMA, for example,
is the Journal of the American Medical Association. Most of the articles
in it are written by professors in universities, by researchers in the
labs of various medical companies, by specialists in government health
agencies, etc. These specialists usually submit their articles to the editor
of the journal, who then distributes them to several members of the
journal's editorial board. The editorial board is supposed to be composed
of recognized individuals in the field. They read the submission and tell
the editor whether or not they think it is valid and worth publishing.
The editorial board, in other words, acts as a review committee and places
a stamp of approval on the articles actually published in the journal.
Journals usually have a list of their editorial board somewhere on the
first few pages of each issue.
In many cases, journals can be easily recognized by their limited or total lack of advertising. In many fields, journals are financed by the dues of members of the professional organization that published the journal. In return for their dues, the members expect detailed, reliable information on important developments. When you do find ads in a journal, they advertise only those things that would be of interest to members of the specific discourse community. English Journal, for example, is the primary journal for high school English teachers. It includes ad for textbooks and other instructional materials that English teachers might want, but it does not have ads for cars, beer, soap, etc. Magazines, on the other hand, tend to include more advertising, and that advertising tends to be aimed at a wider public.
Not an "Either / Or" Distinction
My objective here has been to make
you aware of the basic difference between journals and magazines. When
you are writing papers in your field, your instructors may not accept magazines
as sources for the simple reason that magazines are not written by experts
in the field. There are, however, numerous exceptions to this general rule,
so you should look to the instructors in your field for further directions.
The Shepherds of Arcadia
Oil on canvas