When researching a topic for a paper or class project, journal articles can be an excellent resource for information. Journal articles provide fact-based, professional information on a variety of topics, and offer opportunities for a researcher to locate verifiable, trustworthy information for a research project. In order to use a journal article in your research, you must analyze it properly and assess its uses for your assignment.
Analyze a Journal Article
Verify the validity of the source publication. A journal article is generally a safe choice for research because most journals are academic in nature and require their article writers to check facts before publishing. However, not all journals are created equal; you should try to find journals that are peer-reviewed for the best sources of information, as these will be more reliable than other journals. Journals associated with professional organizations are also a safe bet because they tend to be high-quality.
Identify the author's bias. A journal article does not have to be free of bias or prejudice. Some journals may have a particular slant in their articles, or favor a particular stance or opinion. When reading a journal article, determine whether or not the author has included facts from all sides of an issue, or if he is only presenting one side. Biased articles can still be useful in your research, but you will need to identify that bias in your paper before quoting from the article.
Review supplemental information. Many times a journal article will include supplements, such as charts or graphs, tables, and addendums. It can be easy to skip over these supplements as you read the article, but you should not ignore them completely. The supplemental information often provides verification of the facts presented in the article, and can give you the details and data you need for your research.
Identify important information. When reading the article, it can be helpful for you to take notes; this way, when you have read through several articles you will have a concise set of information from each one and you will not have to re-read them all before doing your own assignment. Identify the main idea of the article along with the supporting references or details. Highlight sections of the article you might wish to quote in your paper, and be sure to identify any relevant data or statistics.
Make sure what you find is actually from an academic journal; not all articles published online are truly useful for research purposes. Use an academic search engine to help you sort out proper sources.
If an article is very lengthy, break it into sections and read it a little bit at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed.