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_Biology: What is a Journal Article?

What are Journal Articles?

Academic journal articles are reports of an expert's original research, analysis, or review of the research available on a topic. These specialized reports are published in journals, which are publications aimed at professionals and scholars.

Here is a link to a tutorial developed by North Carolina State University Libraries that shows which parts make up a journal article, such as the title, author, abstract, introduction, publication information, charts and graphs, conclusion, and references.

In general, journal articles usually have the following parts:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Tables and/or figures



Scholarly vs Popular Articles

What are Periodical Articles?

A periodical is a collection of articles and images about diverse topics of popular interest and current events, or diverse interests and current events in a subject, like science or history. There are many types of periodicals.

Popular magazines and newspapers contain articles that usually are written by journalists and are geared toward the average adult. Use these to stay updated on current news in your area and as a tool to give you ideas for topics to research for an academic paper. 

Academic or scholarly journals contain articles that are written by scholars and are geared toward specialists or experts in a specific field.  Use these to research deeply into specific areas.  These are often used for academic papers and may require you to use a dictionary.  Here is a tutorial about how to read these very specific articles:

Journal Article Search Tips

LImit your results to articles that are peer-reviewed and from the last five years, unless you need research for historical purposes.

Read the abstract, or summary,  of a journal article to help you decide if it's an article you'd like to pursue. Look for important words the author uses in the summary for ideas for keywords. Sometimes there is also a list of keywords underneath an abstract.

Journals are not always found freely online. As a Merced College student, however, you have free access to academic journals through the library databases or Interlibrary Loan. 

Because these are professional sources of information, journal articles are not the best resources to use for basic or background information. While experts do use statistics in their reports, if you need specific statistics there are more direct resources you can use, rather than digging through the database. These statistics are often available for free online or in library reference books. 

How to Read a Journal Article Result

Use this handout to help you figure out the parts of a journal article record. This will help you when you need to put your works cited page together.