Selecting Journal Articles
Where was the article published? Does it come from a scholarly journal published by a university or connected with an organization for researchers?
What is the author's main argument? See the accompanying abstract or skim the first page or two of the article.
What are the author's qualifications? Look at the brief biographical sketch accompanying the article or check the web. What other articles and books has the author published?
When was the article published? Are there more recent articles that may incorporate newer evidence and interpretations?
Reading Journal Articles Critically
How does the author summarize previous scholarship on the questions involved? Thinking about this will add to your understanding of the broader historical context.
What disciplinary approach/es does the author take? For example, is the article written from the point of view of history or art? Are there interpretations from additional academic areas, like political science or law, introduced within an article that explores a particular question in history?
What makes this author's argument significant? What new ideas does this article offer?
What kinds of primary texts or visual sources does the author use? What evidence does the author offer to support the argument and how does the author interpret that evidence?
What are the author's conclusions? What concluding ideas does the author draws from their argument. Do you find it convincing? Are there questions that were not fully answered?
Shoe for Lady's Bound Foot, late 19th c. - early 20th c., silk with embroidery, Helen B. Chapin Collection (Triarte, public domain)
Journal articles provide in depth scholarly information. They are vetted and improved by peer review. They are usually fairly short in length and focused on discussing one specific issue. The following indexes are good places to find journal articles about history.
Use the Find It button in these indexes to find out if the journal articles are available in the Tri-College libraries. If the journal is not listed in Tripod, use the Find It request form or the Interlibrary Loan Request Form on Tripod to have a copy of the article sent to you from another library.
These indexes are particularly good for accessing the scholarly literature of specific disciplines, i.e., articles written by historians, Asian studies scholars, and other researchers.
General Indexes Covering All Subject Areas
Usually researchers find more sources by looking at the footnotes in an article or book, but these will always be older than the publication you have in hand.
Citation indexes like the Web of Science (which includes sections for the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Science) are set up to search for sources cited in the footnotes of journal articles as soon as they become available.
This allows you to find newer articles which cite the books and articles you already know are key for your topic. By relying on connections between authors rather than subject words and by moving forward in time, citation searching can open up new avenues of research.
See this tutorial for more information on cited reference searching.