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Journals and journal articles: Home

Online guidance on finding and using journal articles for research

Journals are key sources to use when carrying out research as they provide information on the latest research and cutting-edge knowledge in a subject.

What are journals?

Journals are publications of scholarly research and writing.

They are published at regular intervals throughout the year. Each issue contains a number of articles which cover areas of current interest or address specialist topics in much greater detail, and are more up-to-date, than is usually possible in books.

Articles are often peer reviewed. This means they are critically evaluated by subject experts prior to publication to ensure the validity, significance and originality of the work.

There are various types of article, including research articles, review articles and brief communications.

Most of our journal articles are available online. However we do have a small collection of some journal titles available in our libraries.

There are a number of ways to search for and access journal articles in our collection:

Types of journal articles

Research articles are the formal publication of a research project, written by those who carried out the research. Research articles are usually published in peer-reviewed journals and will document the aims, methodology, outcomes, data and conclusions reached as a result of the research project.

The peer review process means that articles may be published a considerable time after the research was carried out. However, increasingly articles may be fast-tracked for publication and appear in the electronic version of the journal before publication in print. This 'online early' facility is an important means of providing faster access to cutting edge research.

Review articles critically examine the current state of research in a particular field, including key advances and discoveries, current debates, and ideas about the future direction of research.

Their reference lists can be very important sources of information about the key works in a field. Some journals specialize in review articles, but many journals contain both research articles and reviews. 

Brief communications can include letters and reports on research in progress, and are usually in the form of short notes which vary from a paragraph to a few pages.

They are published very quickly from the point of submission to the journal. They contain notes on new methods, experimental techniques, or research results, or give progress reports on rapidly moving research.

Searching for journal articles using databases

Library Search provides access to some of our journal articles. However, it doesn't provide access to all of them. Many more can be found in our specialized research databases, accessible via the  A to Z database list.

Research databases enable you to see what has been published in the area you are researching. They contain detailed records of thousands of journal articles, book references and conference proceedings. These records usually include the article's title, authors, abstract (a brief summary), keywords (to enable your search to find it) and more.

It's important to note:

  • Some databases provide full text access to the articles themselves.
  • Some databases are primarily indexes or bibliographic databases, and although they provide information about the content of a journal article, they may not provide full-text access to the actual article itself.
  • Some databases are a mixture of full-text and indexed/bibliographic access.

In most cases, it is possible to access the full text by following the links provided.

  • They are a valuable way of searching for published scholarly research across a wide number of sources
  • These databases index the contents of journals as well as other publications such as books and conferences
  • You can build complex searches ensuring that the results are likely to be relevant to your needs
  • They contain huge numbers of records, and thus provide comprehensive subject coverage
  • They also provide frequent (often daily) indexing, and so are very up to date
  • Where full text is available, you can log in with your University of Exeter username and password to access

Open Access journals

An increasing number of peer-reviewed journals are available as fully open access (i.e. free, immediate online availability, together with rights to use these publications subject to proper attribution), or with specific articles within subscription titles available on open access, thereby increasing the visibility and ease of use of scholarly literature.

DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) provides access to thousands of quality-controlled open access journals.


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