What are journal articles?

Warning: reading high quality journal articles can seriously damage your ignorance!  If that isn’t enough to inspire you, you’ve probably been told you must use journal articles in your assignments so read on for the lowdown… By Penny Presta.

What are journal articles?

Journal articles are where researchers report the findings of their research. They are published in journals (also known as serials or periodicals) which release new issues regularly making them a good source of current discourse. Journal articles tend to report on specific aspects of research rather than providing an overview of a topic that might be found in books.

Some Journal types include:
  • scholarly/academic -  often these are peer reviewed
  • trade/professional
  • magazine
Journal Articles may be:
  • primary articles - in which the authors are reporting on their own research findings
  • secondary articles - in which the author summarises the findings of other people’s research (e.g. review articles).
What to look for

As a student you will predominantly be required to use scholarly and peer-reviewed journal articles. Scholarly articles usually follow a set format. To identify a scholarly article look for the inclusion of:

  • Author credentials, affiliations etc.
  • Abstract (summary of the findings)
  • Introduction (statement of topic including purpose and context)
  • Method - if it’s a primary article (a description of the study with enough detail to allow it to be replicated)
  • Results and discussion (actual data or findings, analysis of results in relation to the purpose of the research and any limitations)
  • Conclusion (take home message, suggestions for future research)
  • References.

Finding known articles

If you already have the details of the journal article, the easiest way to find out if the library gives you access is to search for the Journal Title using the eJounals A-Z. Then navigate to the publication year and volume you are looking for.

Alternatively go to Search and use the Citation hyperlink and enter some details in the fields provided.

Finding articles on a topic

If you are not looking for a specific title you can use Search. Search is a ‘discovery layer’ that includes both local and remote resources. Limit your results to journal articles or peer-reviewed journal articles. See Paula’s blog post for more on how to use Search.

Library databases may provide more comprehensive coverage of journals in a particular discipline, and may contain many articles not available via Google due to their licensed or copyrighted nature. See Romany’s blog post for more on Library Databases.

Why am I expected to use journal articles?
  • Using academic articles promotes an understanding of how experts carry out research and report their findings.
  • Exposure to key research papers assists in obtaining an understanding of the fundamental ideas and vocabulary of a discipline.
  • Supporting your writing with evidence allows you to demonstrate you have necessary skills in searching for and critically evaluating sources.
  • The ability to extract key information from the literature and synthesise ideas is essential for professional expertise and engagement in a field.
Still stuck?

For assistance with locating journal articles, attend a drop-in at your library’s Research & Learning Point and chat with a librarian.

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