Journal articles

Journal articles


A journal (also known as a periodical or serial) is a type of magazine which deals with a specialised topic, e.g. criminology. There are two main types of journal:

  • Peer reviewed journals – these are the main forum for the latest academic research. They contain long, scholarly articles written by academic researchers. Each article is checked by a panel of experts before they are published.
  • Professional Magazines - short features or news items, written by professionals working in the field (who are not necessarily involved in research) and by journalists who may/may not have subject expertise.
Advantages Disadvantages
Published more frequently than books; therefore more up-to-date May give too specific coverage if you need a broad overview of a topic or an introduction
Give you information on specific aspects of a topic
Contain expert opinion; therefore have authority
Give you ideas on academic writing (and how to reference)

Finding journals

Most journals are now available electronically via the Library Catalogue. To find a particular journal. Select the journal title option, type in the title of the journal, e.g. British Journal of Social Work and click the Search button. Follow the links to access the electronic version of the journal. N.B. If working off-campus you will need to enter your network log in to access the journal.

A very small number of journals are still only produced in print format. To use these you must go to the journal shelves (Level 1 Journals section, Polhill Library; Ground Floor, Park Square LRC).

Tracing a reference to a specific journal article

A reference to a journal article looks like this:

Cavet, J. (2000) 'Children and young people with a hidden disability', British Journal of Social Work, 30(5) Oct pp. 619-34.

To find this article:

  • Go to the Library Catalogue & select the journal title option.
  • Type in the title of the journal e.g. British Journal of Social Work NOT 'Children and young people with a hidden disability.'
  • If the journal is available electronically the words "Electronic Resource" will appear beside it. Click on the title of the journal & select a service to access the electronic full text. N.B. If working off-campus you will be prompted for your login details at this point.
  • Select the relevant year, volume and part to find the article by Cavet.
  • If the journal is not available electronically you must go to the journal shelves & find the relevant year, volume & part to read the article.

Finding journal articles on a topic

The easiest way to find useful journal articles on a topic is to use an appropriate database. Databases contain references to thousands of journal articles which you can search all at the same time. This is much more effective than browsing shelves of printed journals hoping to find something useful.

A list of useful databases for the Applied Social Sciences may be found here.

Alternatively, you may wish to use Google Scholar. This is a specialist search engine which is designed to search for only academic material on the Internet. Help and advice on using Google Scholar to find journal articles can be found here.

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