What are academic journals and why do I need to use them?
Academic journals are key sources for your university studies and your tutors will encourage them to use them as sources in your assignments.
Articles published in these journals are written by specialists in the subject and they provide an insight into current thinking, debate and research in the field you are studying.
Journals can be good sources of up to date information on current topics which may not be covered by books.
Articles can cover a specific topic in depth, e.g. a case study.
This guide Anatomy of a Journal (PDF) from the Open University explains clearly what a journal is, and how they differ from books.
How do I look for a specific journal?
Go to the Library home page and select the 'Journal titles' tab.
Type in the journal title.
Find the journal on LibrarySearch and click on the title.
Click on the 'Access journal' link to connect to the journal home page.
How do I look for a specific journal article?
If you have the details of a specific article you may be able to use LibrarySearch to find it. Type the article title and author in the LibrarySearch
Alternatively you can look up a specific journal title and browse or search through back issues:
Go to the Library home page and select the 'Journal titles' tab. Type in the journal title. Find the journal on LibrarySearch and click on the title. Click on the 'Access journal' link to connect to the journal home page.
If you're looking for a specific article, start by browsing for the year on the journal home page. Use the volume and issue numbers to find the correct journal issue. Articles in each issue will be listed in page order, so use the page numbers to find the specific article.
How do I look for journal articles on a topic?
- Use LibrarySearch
LibrarySearch is a good place to start looking for journal articles on a topic. Just type your keywords or a phrase in the search box. At the results screen, use the the filter options on the left to limit your search to peer-reviewed articles.
- Use databases
We recommend you also use databases, especially for more in-depth research because LibrarySearch doesn’t cover all of our e-resources and you may get better results on a more specialised database.
How do I read a journal article?
Here is an example of an article from an academic journal - to view it, click on the title link and log in with your Brookes ID and password when prompted:
Thurnell-Read, T., Brown, L. and Long, P. (2018) 'International Students’ Perceptions and Experiences of British Drinking Cultures’, Sociological Research Online, 23(3), pp.572-588.
- First read the Abstract, a summary of the article’s content. Look at this to help you decide if an article is relevant for your own research.
- Scan through the Introduction where the authors set their article in the context of previous research. Notice all the in-text citations, e.g. (Gill, 2002). These are sources that the authors read before conducting their own research.
- Look at the Conclusion where the authors highlights the key points they want to make.
If the article looks useful, download the PDF and read it later, making notes as you go. Don’t forget to record all the details of the article for your reference list.
What are peer-reviewed articles?
You will often be asked to consult peer reviewed articles for your research. These are high quality scholarly articles that have been checked by other experts in the field.
The peer review provides feedback so that researchers can revise and improve their papers before publication. It also acts as a quality check, ensuring that articles meet high standards expected in the discipline and required to maintain the reputation of the journal. Find out more about the purpose of peer review and how it works in this Explainer: what is peer review?
How do I reference a journal article in my work?
1. Record the details of the article when you find it so that you can include it in your reference list. Make sure you have a record of: Author(s); Title of article; Title of journal; Year of publication; Volume number (if given); Issue number (if given); Page numbers.
To do this, you could:
- Create a Google doc or Word document where you store your reference details.
- If you have found the article through LibrarySearch, you can save the link to the record.
2. Check Cite Them Right Online for guidance on how to use these details to create a Harvard style reference for this journal article.