Journal articles are short papers written on a narrow topic area. They are part of larger issues called journals, which are published on a regular basis.
Journal articles are a great resource to use. They will cover more specific topics and go into more detail than a textbook. They usually contain more up-to-date and cutting edge research than books.
Many journal articles also go through the process of peer review. Watch the video in the box below to find out what peer review is and how it acts as a an extra quality control step.
1. Read the abstract (overview) to check if it's relevant
2. Check the authority of the author
3. Skim the paragraphs - look for your keywords
4. Is there a literature review? (Discussion of the literature already written and useful to see who are the key writers on your topic.)
5. Are there any references you can investigate later?
6. Read the conclusion
7. If it looks okay and relevant you can then take your time over it in more detail
Academic articles contain original research, critical debate, analysis and case studies which you can comment upon and cite in your essays.
Citing the opinions of others in the text of your essay shows you have read the articles. Don't just reference them at the end! Ask your tutor for the best journals to read in your subject field.
There are a few ways you can find relevant journal articles for your coursework, the main one being to search subject-specific databases which cover this type of literature for your topic.
For a complete list of databases please click on the Subject Resources tab for this LibGuide.
You will find a description of each database beneath the title which will explain what that database specialises in and this may help you decide whether you need to search it.
Sometimes using a technique known as citation searching can help you locate additional literature on your topic and find papers specifically attributed to an author(s) to determine what impact that publication has had in that specific area. It's a great way to supplement literature you have already found and will increase your awareness of the research environment for that topic.
There are two types of citation searching:
1. Backwards citation searching - this is where you look at the list of references which appear at the end of a journal article to find papers and literature which have been cited by the authors of the journal article you are reading. It is called backwards citation searching since these research papers have been published before the paper you are reading therefore this literature is going to be older. You will only see the basic bibliographic information including the article title, author, year, volume, issue and page numbers (where applicable) so you will need to search for the article title in order to retrieve the abstract and full-text article.
2. Forwards citation searching - this is where you search for a journal article title and find other research papers which have cited that particular journal article meaning that these papers have been published after the article you have read. SCOPUS is a really helpful database that has a cited by tool which will retrieve other papers that have cited the journal article you have searched. It's also a great way to gauge which papers are the most frequently cited and is easy to use. Please watch the short video below for an overview of how to perform this technique using SCOPUS.