PsycTUTOR | Psychology | JMU Libraries

Finding Journal Articles

Popular vs. Scholarly

Articles on psychology topics can be found in a large number of periodicals, ranging from popular magazines to scholarly journals. For most psychology assignments at JMU, you will need to use scholarly journal articles for your research. With Carrier Library subscribing or having electronic access to thousands of periodicals, how can you tell which are popular magazines and which are scholarly journals? A few simple criteria can help you make the distinction:

Popular Magazine Article
Scholarly Journal Article
May be unsigned Written by experts in the field
May be written by someone outside the field Author's credentials are given
No references References well documented
Written for general public Specialized language used
Widely distributed In peer-reviewed or refereed journals, articles submitted are
reviewed by a panel of experts on the subject
Often published by association or scholarly press

Research Reports and Other Types of Scholarly Journal Articles

In a research report, the author reports on an experiment or analyzes data that has been collected. According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, research reports must be written as shown below.

APA Format for Research Report



includes review of related literature and statement of hypothesis


gives description of subjects, instrument used, procedures

Results or Findings

describes what the author learned from the experiment, statistics


talks about the significance of the results

When you examine a scholarly journal article, make sure these elements are present if you are required to find a research report.

Scholarly journals contain many types of articles that are not reports of research. One type is the review article, which summarizes research that has been done on a topic. Typically, review articles have long lists of references. In addition, scholarly articles may take the form of case studies, theoretical articles, and statements of opinion, to name a few.


The best way to find scholarly journal articles on a psychology topic is to search PsycINFO, a research database published by the American Psychological Association. It covers the world's literature of psychology, including journals, books, chapters, dissertations, technical reports, and other documents. For each item indexed, it has an abstract, and for some, it has the full text. You may use PsycINFO from any networked computer on campus or from home. You may have to follow instructions for off-campus access the first time.

Other Important Databases

PsycINFO is a good database to begin your search for information, but you may wish to search others as well, particularly if your topic borders on another discipline, such as education, medicine, or sociology. The library has over 300 databases that you can search. See the Psychology Research Guide for important databases in related fields.

You may also need to consult a citation index. These important sources will tell you whether an article has been cited by another publication. This way you can use one good article on your topic to help you find more recent related articles. After each article listed in a citation index, you will find a list of references that cite the article. You may also use a citation index to determine how important an author or article is by the number of times it is cited. Carrier Library has two citation indexes:

  • Web of Science
  • Scopus

Finding a Journal in the Library or Online

To find out whether Carrier Library has a journal you need, search Periodical Locator for the title of the journal, not the title of the article.

Periodical Locator

Periodical Locator will tell you whether we own the journal, which years we own, and the format. A journal may be in any of the following formats:

Format Location
current issuesin the Periodicals Room on First Floor
bound in hard-backed print volumes on Second Floor
microfichein Microform Room on Second Floor
electronic formLink directly to it

Interlibrary Loan

If you need an article the library does not have, you may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan. The library will then find a library or vendor that has the article you need and obtain a copy.

You may fill out an electronic request form. Most articles are sent electronically.  You will be notified by email. 

The library does not charge for interlibrary loans.

PsycTUTOR | Psychology | JMU Libraries