Selecting Journal Articles
Where was the article published? Does it come from a scholarly journal published by a university press or one that is connected to an organization of 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 political science? Are there interpretations from additional academic fields, like anthropology or sociology, introduced within an article that explores an historical or political question?
What makes this author's argument significant? What new ideas does this article offer?
What kinds of primary 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 draw from his or her 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.
Before searching in journal databases, develop vocabulary that uses synonyms and related terms. Construct search statements that bring subjects into meaningful connections.
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*)
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 subjects or words in abstracts.
Results: Look at the articles retrieved, especially their subject headings, for additional ideas and concepts. Then change your search terms for further results.
The databases below allow you to search for journal articles by subject. When you find a title of interest, if the full text is not immediately available (as in JSTOR and Proquest), use the Find It button to check for your college's holdings.
Political Science and Philosophy Indexes
General Indexes -All Subject Areas Covered
Indexes for Related 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.