A journal article is the written record of the process and outcomes of a particular piece of research.
Journal articles tend to be quite narrow in focus. It is usually necessary to read several journal articles on a topic to gain an understanding of the methodologies used in the field as well as the major developments, discourses and gaps in knowledge about the topic.
Researchers write articles to build on pre-existing research – they may be confirming or refuting previous understandings of the topic, testing/applying theoretical concepts in practical ways, or explaining brand new concepts.
Journals are published regularly e.g. 4, 6 or 12 issues per year, because new research is continually being done and journals help to make research results available more quickly than books.
The short answer is no. The expertise of the author, as well as the research process and standard of writing will determine quality. But the quality of journal articles is handled in part by the peer review process.
More on determining the quality of journal articles: CRAP test
Most high-quality journals have a process that involves experts in a field reviewing any submissions from researchers who want to be published. Those reviewers determine whether revisions need to be made by the author/s. This cycle will continue until the reviewers are satisfied that the article meets the standard set by the journal’s editors.
More on the peer review process: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-peer-review-27797
Ways to check whether a journal is classed as peer-reviewed: https://library.sydney.edu.au/databases/peerreviewed.html
Google can help you find some articles. Not all of them, or the most relevant ones. Google doesn’t tell you the difference between a webpage or document that is well researched and one that is not. A better option for finding journal articles is Google Scholar. Set up Google Scholar for access to Library subscriptions.
The main search box on the Library’s homepage, known as Library Search, is a good place to start. It will allow you to find information that Google can't. It includes different formats such as books, films and theses. You can use filters to expand or restrict your results to one format e.g. journal articles.
Once you become more familiar with the research and inquiry process, you may find it beneficial to use a resource that is focused on particular disciplines. Because these databases have a narrow focus you’ll spend less time sifting through irrelevant material, but you may need to use more than one database to cover your topic. Also, some databases can contain more than just journal articles, so you may want to filter by database type in our databases directory, which will allow you to select one that contains particular content types.
Where can you go for specialist databases and support?
Some journals are still published in print, but many now exist only online.
If the journal is in print, you’ll need to:
We've used some of the above information to show an example of how you might search for journal articles relevant to a topic.
Step 1: Type your main search terms into the main search box, on the Library Homepage.
Step 2: The example here shows that you can filter your results from the options displayed under 'refine my results' and then access the full text of the article selected" src="//libapps.s3.amazonaws.com/accounts/92464/images/BasicLibrarySearchExampleStep2-3.png" style="width: 707px; height: auto; margin: 20px;" />
Step 3: Access the full text by choosing one of the options at the bottom of the applicable record and follow any prompts.
SEARCH TIP: If you aren’t getting relevant results, try using different words that describe your topic. Think about how an author may describe a key concept or topic and look at the actual words used in the results you find. If you are looking for information about online gaming addiction, you could also search multi-player gaming addiction or internet gaming to see if you get other relevant results.
Advanced search allows you broaden or focus your search using a more structured approach. Using our example topic, you may wish to search for either online gaming or multi- player gaming.
For our example topic, we will search a multi-disciplinary database called ProQuest Central.
Step 1: Login to ProQuest Central.
Select Databases on the Library Homepage
Using the Quick search box, search for ProQuest Central, follow the prompts and log in with your unikey.
ProQuest Central is a major full-text database covering humanities, social sciences, education, health and medical, science and technology and business and management.
Step 2:Enter your search terms (Remember to use the help information within each database for search tips).
In this example, I will use the advanced search.
SEARCH TIP: Try searching your keywords using specific database fields such as Abstract – AB, available via the drop-down menu. This option will help narrow the focus of your search and retrieve more relevant journal articles.