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British Literature I (ENGL 2322): Journal Articles

They Say, I Say

Think of your searches as conversations.

To understand this approach, think of your search target (library catalog, library database, Eagle Search, Google, etc.) as a large collection of what "they say."

Your electronic search can be understood as a conversation between you and the tool or tools you use to find and select sources. What you "say" to the tools will determine how well they respond to your query -- that is, the results you get from your search.

The quality of your conversation -- your search and the search results -- will depend on

  • where you search (library catalog, library database, Eagle Search, Google, etc.);
  • the kinds of sources you look for (books, scholarly articles, video, web pages, etc.);
  • the search terms you use (keywords, subject tags, titles, etc.); and
  • how well you combine your search terms into a search phrase (using Boolean operators such as AND and OR, as well as other search limiters and operators).

To find journal articles:

  • Search Eagle Library Search; one or more library databases; or possibly Google Scholar.
  • In ELS ot the library databases you can limit your search to find only scholarly academic journals.
  • Be as specific as you can with search terms. Also, watch for specialized terms that you find in the sources you like, that you can use in your search.
  • Use Boolean and other operators to develop and refine your search phrase.

Open Access E-journals for Literature

Image of Person with Text

Journals & Magazines

What Is a Scholarly or Academic Journal Article?

Every scholarly journal article is part of one or more long conversations. Recognizing this can help you understand and use information from these sources more effectively.

You can think of any writing project, and especially those in which you use source information, as part of a long conversation as well. As a writer, you add your voice to the conversation.

How can you connect to a conversation? When you include information from sources in your writing, you show that you're listening. Your part in the conversation is to find your own voice and point of view as you agree with others, disagree with them, question them, applaud them, and expand on their ideas.

You can recognize journal articles by certain characteristics. The characteristics of scholarly journal articles reflect their roles in long conversations. This area is designed to help you recognize and understand some key characteristics.

More important, understanding how these characteristics connect an article to one or more conversations can help you be a better reader, thinker, and writer.

The five characteristics described here will help you recognize (and be able to use) scholarly academic journal articles. (They are often called simply journal articles, academic journal articles, scholarly articles; and sometimes peer-reviewed journal articles.)

  1. The length of the articles. They're longer.
  2. The focus of the articles. They're tightly focused and specialized.
  3. An abstract. There's usually a one-paragraph abstract of the article after the title.
  4. Cited sources. The sources used in journal articles will be cited fully as Works Cited, References, bibliography, or footnotes.
  5. The authors are credentialed experts. Usually that means they are university faculty with advanced degrees.

Faculty in colleges and universities often expect students to use academic journal articles as sources for research papers and projects. The HCC Libraries provide access to thousands or even millions of journal articles.

By looking for these features of journal articles, you can be certain to chose a source that is an academic journal article.


The purpose of an academic journal article is to report original research, from one expert researcher to an audience of other expert researchers. All the characteristics of journal articles discussed here are related to this purpose.

  1. The length of the articles. An expert writing for other experts is obligated to be specific and detailed in discussing the purpose of her research; elaborating the context and background of her research question and approach; and reporting the results.
  2. The focus of the articles. Because experts spend years identifying and researching questions that are important to them and many of their colleagues, each piece of research they plan and complete is focused on a relatively narrow research question. 
  3. An abstract. There's usually a one-paragraph abstract of the article after the title. This saves the reader time. Since there are many interesting, focused research reports in any area of study, an abstract helps the reader select those to read.
  4. Sources. The sources used in journal articles will be cited fully. This helps expert readers in a variety of ways, including establishing the author's background and approach, as well as helping the reader find the sources used.
  5. The authors are credentialed experts. Usually that means they are university faculty with advanced degrees.

Each of these characteristics reflects the purpose of reporting original and credible research results in an informative way for its intended audience.

Journal articles are typically longer than newspaper or magazine articles. A journal article is usually from 5 up to 30 pages long. (They are sometimes even longer, but rarely shorter.)

How to find the number of pages for a journal article

This length is necessary for the author to transparently to connect the focus, methods, and results of her expert, specialized research with the work of other experts. An expert writing for other experts is obligated to be specific and detailed in discussing the purpose of her research; elaborating the context and background of her research question and approach; and reporting the results.

A journal -- a container for journal articles -- will possibly contain shorter texts, such as announcements and book reviews. These kinds of things are not the kinds of journal articles that are good sources for a paper.

The actual length of any journal article might be related to the academic discipline of the author or authors. Legal journal articles frequently run to 50 pages or more. In natural sciences or mathematics, journal articles are frequently short.

Because experts spend years reading and thinking about what interests them most, reading what others have written about it, and identifying and researching a thesis or question that is important to them and many of their colleagues, each piece of research they plan and complete is specialized, focusing on a narrow research thesis or question. You'll usually be able to identify a statement of this thesis or question in the Abstract and near the beginning of the body of the article.

This abstract defines the narrow scope of the paper:

 Image of abstract with narrow focus of study

In this example you can see the very focused thesis stated:

Snip from an article showing its thesis

Even when a scholarly publication lacks an abstract, the title of the article often gives a clear idea of the narrow focus of the publication. Scholarly authors often choose titles that convey the nature of their research to their expert readers quickly.

To see how titles can indicate that a source is scholarly, look at this list of scholarly articles about Chaucer:

Because journal articles are longer, and to make them accessible to expert readers quickly, academic journal articles are usually published with a one-paragraph abstract. The abstract summarizes the entire article.

Thurman Article with Abstract

Use of cited sources is one of the surest signs that an article is a scholarly article. Academic journal articles use information from other articles and books. The sources used in journal articles will be cited fully as Works Cited, References, bibliography, or footnotes.

Why do these expert authors always use source information? 

First, everybody uses information from sources all the time, even when they're not writing.

There is an important insight here about the nature of learning and knowledge -- all knowledge is built on previous knowledge. To limit oneself to one's own ideas (assuming it's even possible) would be debilitating. Even the most brilliant scholars and scientists build their insights and learning with the ideas, data, and arguments of other scholars and scientists. Bottom line: you can't succeed in academic work or learning if you try to rely only on your own ideas.

You don't have to (and shouldn't) use only sources what agree with you. Expert writers often include information from sources they agree with, wither mostly or partly. They use other perspectives as a way to show that their own ideas as new and different.

Why do expert writers cite their sources?

Simple: Expert academic writers cite their sources because it defines their work as researchers and scholars. Since every academic writer is aware that their own work is built on the work of others, citing sources

  1. Establishes authority. A writer inherits some of the authority of his sources.
  2. Shows which others you're "worked with." A writer earns credibility by demonstrating familiarity with important other scholars, the leaders in the field.
  3. Provides other perspectives on the problem or thesis. To promote an idea successfully, you have to show readers how it's better than competing ideas.
  4. Shows your fairness and intelligence, and therefore improves your credibility. That's why it's important to engage openly and fairly with sources in the paper.

Here is a Works Cited example. Note that both the in-text citations and the Works Cited list of sources are necessary!

Spellmire Intext Citations


Spellmire Works Cited and Berger


Spellmire McEleney


Spellmire FQ

An endnotes example

A footnotes example


Academic publications are meant to be part of one or more ongoing conversations among interested scholars and experts. Citations support this goal, but scholarly articles not only identify the authors; they almost always also provide information that can be used by other scholars to contact the authors directly. This is at least the author's academic or other scholarly affiliation, but it's often an email address.

Title and Author Credentials for a Journal Article

Did you notice:

  1. The length of the article: Klassen pages
  2. The specialized focus of the article: Klassen Title
  3. The abstract: Klassen Abstract
  4. The Works Cited: Klassen Works Cited
  5. The author's credentials: Klassen Credentials 1  Klassen Credentials 2

Did you notice:

  1. The length of the article: Pages 71-92. 
  2. The specialized focus of the article is apparent from the title and the thesis:  Ursell thesis
  3. This article does not include an abstract! Ursell no abstract
  4. This article uses endnotes to cite sources. Numbers in teh text link to source information in endnotes. Ursell Notes
  5. The author's credentials:   Ursell author information

After you've examined the first two examples, create your own.

From the "Selected Authors" tab of this guide, click on the name of any of the authors. Limit your search to "Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals," and select one article.

How well does the article you selected match the 5 criteria listed in this guide?

Eagle Library Searches, Limited to Journal Articles

These sample searches are intended to introduce you to

  1. The rich variety of sources available in Eagle Library Search, and 
  2. Some ways to modify and limit your searches for better results.

Click on any of the links; browse the results; and modify the search to see how your search results change to find what interests you.

Literary Criticism & Book Reviews

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