Books and Journal Articles

A mix of books and journal articles will make up the majority of the sources you use for your paper. Knowing the difference between the two will help you understand the benefits of both.


What are Journals?

journal is a scholarly publication containing articles written by researchers, professors and other experts. Journals focus on a specific discipline or field of study and are published on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, etc.). Like newspapers and magazines, journals are also called periodicals or serials.

Unlike newspapers and magazines, journals are intended for an academic or technical audience, not general readers.

The Differences between Books and Journals

Books Journals
In-depth and broad examination of a topic May be in-depth but only on a specific topic

Longer lag between an event or discovery and a book’s publication. As a result…

  • More complete information (causes, effects, long-term consequences, fuller conclusions, etc.)
  • Deeper analysis
  • Broader historical perspective; more contextual both within and outside of a discipline
Cover recent developments and events with little time lapse. As a result…

  • Information is current but may not be the “whole picture”
  • Journals are important for competitive or time-sensitive research
Contain original research that may cover multiple experiments or span several years Journals have original research and typically focus on one experiment.
More cumulative coverage of a topic Limited coverage without much historical overview or context
Longer: 100 to several hundred pages Shorter: up to around 30 pages
Published once, though revised editions may come out later Composed of volumes and issues published on a regular basis


Tip Box Found a great book or article? Check out the Bibliography (Works Cited) at the end. You can check out the sources listed there for your own paper!