The purpose of journals is to allow researchers to publish and share the results of their research projects with each other. Most journal articles typically describe very specific research projects, in very technical language. They can be hard to read, even for expert engineers! Thus, these sources are not published for consumption by the general public - their audience is other experts.
- Journals contain articles. Journals are focused on a specific discipline, and journal articles report on a single, detailed, research projects that is described in about ten to twenty pages (on average).
Information in these publications is arranged in a way to help readers quickly determine if the article or paper would be useful to them. Here's what you can expect to find:
- A title that describes the research project
- An abstract - usually about a paragraph long - which provides a summary of the research project and findings (NOTE: This is a good spot to check and see if the article you found is relevant to your assignment, before reading the whole thing!)
- An introduction that provides the scope and objectives of the research project
- A section explaining the materials and/or methods used
- The results that were found - often in the form of data, tables, graphs, etc.
- A discussion and/or conclusion describing the significance and relevance of the findings
- A list of cited references to other publications that the authors consulted in designing and developing their research project.
Journal articles go through a peer-review process before they are published. Peer review is a process where one or more experts will read an article or paper and examine whether the research methods are valid and whether the conclusions make sense. They might also look at the importance and utility of the research, as well as the quality of the authors' writing. If the article or paper isn't good enough, it will not pass the peer-review process and will not be published. However, just because a source is peer-reviewed does not mean it is perfectly accurate and reliable!