Periodical literature

Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of serial publications that appear in a new edition on a regular schedule.[1] The most familiar example is the magazine, typically published weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Other examples of periodicals are newsletters, academic journals and yearbooks.[1] Newspapers, often published daily or weekly, are, strictly speaking, a separate category of serial.[2][3]

Volumes and issues

Perodicals are typically published and referenced by volume and issue. Volume typically refers to the number of years the publication has been circulated, and issue refers to how many times that periodical has been published during that year. For example, the April 2011 publication of a monthly magazine first published in 2002 would be listed as, "volume 10, issue 4". Roman numerals are sometimes used in reference to the volume number.[1]

When citing a work in a periodical, there are standardized formats such as The Chicago Manual of Style. In the latest edition of this style, a work with volume number 17 and issue number 3 may be written as follows:

  • James M. Heilman, and Andrew G. West. "Wikipedia and Medicine: Quantifying Readership, Editors, and the Significance of Natural Language." Journal of Medical Internet Research 17, no. 3 (2015). doi:10.2196/jmir.4069.


Periodicals are often characterized by their period (or frequency) of publication.[4][5] This information often helps librarian make decisions about whether or not to include certain periodicals in their collection.[6] It also helps scholars decide which journal to submit their paper to.[7]

QuinquenniallyOnce per 5 years15 per year
QuadrienniallyOnce per 4 years14 per year
TrienniallyOnce per 3 years13 per year
BienniallyOnce per 2 years12 per year
AnnuallyOnce per year1 per year
Semiannually, BiannuallyTwice per year2 per year
TriannuallyThrice per year3 per year
QuarterlyEvery quarter4 per year
BimonthlyEvery 2 months6 per year
Semi-quarterlyTwice per quarter8 per year
MonthlyEvery month12 per year
Semi-monthlyTwice per month24 per year
Biweekly, FortnightlyEvery two weeks26 per year
WeeklyEvery week52 per year
Semi-weeklyTwice per week104 per year
DailyOnce per business dayVaries

Periodicals are often classified as either popular or scholarly. Popular periodicals are usually magazines (e.g., Ebony and Esquire). Scholarly journals are most commonly found in libraries and databases. Examples are The Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Social Work.

Trade magazines are also examples of periodicals. They are written for an audience of professionals in the world. As of the early 1990s, there were over 6,000 academic, business, scientific, technical, and trade publications in the United States alone.[9]

Indefinite vs. part-publication

These examples are related to the idea of an indefinitely continuing cycle of production and publication: magazines plan to continue publishing, not to stop after a predetermined number of editions. A novel, in contrast, might be published in monthly parts, a method revived after the success of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.[10] This approach is called part-publication, particularly when each part is from a whole work, or a serial, for example in comic books. It flourished during the nineteenth century, for example with Abraham John Valpy's Delphin Classics, and was not restricted to fiction.[11]

Standard numbers

The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is to serial publications (and by extension, periodicals) what the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is to books: a standardized reference number.


Postal services often carry periodicals at a preferential rate; for example, Second Class Mail in the United States only applies to publications issued at least quarterly.[12]

See also


  1. "Periodical". ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. ABC-Clio. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  2. "Newspaper". ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. ABC-Clio. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  3. "Serial". ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. ABC-Clio. 2006-11-12. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  4. "Frequency of Publication codes".
  5. "Frequencies".
  6. Dickinson, Kelly; Boyd, Bryanna; Gunningham, Regan (29 November 2010). "Reference Analysis as an Aid in Collection Development: A Study of Master of Architecture Theses at Dalhousie University". Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management. 5 (1). doi:10.5931/djim.v5i1.48.
  7. "Where to submit your manuscript". How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (7th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 33. ISBN 9781107670747.
  8. "Cover of Science in School 32". Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  9. Blake, Gary & Bly, Robert W. (1993). The Elements of Technical Writing. New York: Macmillan Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 0020130856.
  10. "The Novel". Aspects of the Victorian Book via The British Library.
  11. Eliot, Simon & Rose, Jonathan (2007). A Companion to the History of the Book. p. 297.
  12. "Second Class Mail". Barron's Business Dictionary via

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