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COMM 398: Research Methods in Communication: Journal Articles

A course guide designed for the research needs of Communication 398 students.

Type of Articles & Journals

You will often be asked to search for academic or scholarly articles and journals. What does that mean? How are they different from other articles and journals?

Academic Journals and Articles

  • An academic article is created by academics for academics.
  • The research and information is considered to be trustworthy and well-researched.
  • Academic journals often have the word "journal" in the title, like Journal of Business Communication.
  • Academic articles are long. A short academic or scholarly article is five pages long; most are 15 to 20 pages long.
  • Academic journals rarely feature color pictures; most will feature charts and graphs, but not pictures.
  • Authors often have an affiliation with a university or research institute.


General-interest Magazines

  • General-interest magazines include titles like Time, Newsweek, Forbes, and Rolling Stone.
  • Articles are often shorter and written for a general audience.
  • Articles feature color images and the magaiznes are slick and glossy.
  • Don't dismiss an article in a general-interest magazine, but be aware of who it is written for and where it is coming from.


The "Best" Parts of a Journal Article

Conducting research takes a great deal of time -- usually more than you anticipate.  However, I can help you find the "best" parts of any journal article. These sections contain a great deal of explicit and implicit information about the article, and knowing how to analyze these sections will help you determine quickly which articles are relevant. Here are the sections:

Publication Type: A publication type will tell you what sort of publication you are examining. If you're unsure if your document comes from a scholarly journal, simply check the journal title in Ulrichsweb -- a database that provides detailed information on publications.

Title: Looking over the title seems like an obvious move, but the article titles are usually specifically chosen in order to best convey to the reader what they can expect.

Author: Look for author credentials in the article.  Usually an article will have a brief blurb about where the author received their training and/or education, or perhaps where they currently work.  This information is invaluable because it allows you to make an informed choice about their credentials.

Abstract: The abstract is a great place to get an overview of an article.  Abstracts usually contain a summary of the purpose, methods, and results of an article.

Methods: The "Methods" section of an article informs the reader about how the information was gathered, or research conducted. Examining the methodology gives the reader ample opportunity to ask questions about the validity of methods, sources of information, and more.  On an aside, the "Methods" section is usually located after the Introduction.

Conclusions: Like the Abstract, the Conclusions section is a brief summary of results.  Often, the authors include a line about the significance of the study for future researchers.

References: References are the last section of an article, and contains all of the sources the article author(s) used.  This is a gold mine of information for student researchers because they provide a list of articles, all focused on the same topic – which saves you time and effort!

Core Databases