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?
Journal articles provide in-depth scholarly information for your research. They are vetted and improved by peer review prior to publication. They form an important part of the communication network that makes research available, prompts discussion, and identifies new issues to resolve.
When searching in journal databases, these strategies will get better results:
* Truncation: Shorten search words with an asterisk to get all the forms
politic* will get politics, political, politicians
OR: Link synonyms with OR and group them with parentheses
(immigra* OR ethnic*)
AND: Combine topics that you want to see together
family AND gender* AND (economic* OR work*)
" " Phrase: Use quotation marks to search for words together in that order
"migrant agricultural laborers" "birth control"
Focus: Choose where the database is searching. It may be set automatically for keyword. You can make the search more precise by looking instead for title words only or for subjects.
Results: Look at the articles retrieved for additional ideas and concepts. Then change your search terms for additional results.
See the Search Tips tab for more information.
Use these journal databases where you can apply a full range of search techniques to find scholarship on your topic. These include choosing exact terminology, using Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT to define the relationships among search terms, and employing strategies for precise results with nesting, phrase searches, truncation, field searching, and sorting results. See the Search Tips tab for more details.
They cover the top-tier journals but will not go into depth in the different subject areas:
Take advantage of more in-depth coverage of topics with databases focused on a specific academic discipline.
Where to find subject-specific databases? Check the Research Guides website which outlines the major databases by subject area. It also includes resource lists for classes and for categories like news and government information. The Research Guides site can be searched by word or phrase (in quotations) to find specific topics..