Answered By: Research Center Desk
Last Updated: May 13, 2016     Views: 14

A journal is a publication comprised of articles that focuses on one specific topic or area.  Some journals may only be published once a year while other may be published more frequently.  Often a journal’s title will indicate their topic.

Examples of journals:

  • The American Journal of Nursing
  • The New England Review
  • Behavioral Brain Research
  • Science
  • Studies in Short Fiction
  • European Business Review
  • Journal of Biotechnology

A database is an online tool comprised of many journals that often focuses on a broad area.  Databases are constantly updated.  A database’s name doesn’t always indicate their scope.     

Examples of databases:

  • ABI/Inform Complete (Business related journals)
  • JSTOR (Multi-disciplinary journals)
  • PsycINFO (Behavioral science and mental health journals)
  • Web of Science (Sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities journals)

Why should I care?

Generally, databases will get you more initial results since they search a greater area, but some of those results might not be as relevant to your topic.  Searching within one journal will get you fewer results, but they might be more relevant.  For example, if a student is writing a paper on Cormac McCarthy, they might want to start by searching The Cormac McCarthy Journal and then move on to a database that covers literature like JSTOR.  

You’ll also need to know the difference when constructing a citation since most citations require the journal title and the database name. 

Here’s a graphic that shows the relationship between articles, journals, and databases. 

Articles within Journals within Database Diagram