Journals are one of the main places where scholars publish their work. Journals have a narrow scope within a field. For example, The Journal of Public Relations Research publishes "research that creates, tests, or expands public relations theory".
These journals are usually published 3-4 times a year, which is why they are sometimes also referred to as periodicals. This is why almost every journal article citation has both an issue and a volume number. The volume is roughly related to the year of publication of the journal and the issue is related to the season. So 54(4) in a citation would likely represent that this is the 54th year of publication of the journal and the article was published in the winter of that year. Of course, in practice this can be messier, but the purpose is primarily to help us find the specific journal article by its citation. Nowadays, journal articles also have a DOI. The DOI is a string of numbers and letters that serve as a unique identifier to an article. You can think of it and use it as a URL, but one that will never change.
Many academic journals primarily publish empirical research, essentially the reports of formal research studies. These articles aren't very long, usually 10-30 pages, but use specialized terminology and often include advanced statistics. They are often difficult to read. Academic journal articles often follow a predictable pattern for how they are composed and share some commonly used headings. These can help direct your reading.
Academic journals usually also have a strict peer-review process prior to possible publication, and therefore are often referred to as peer-reviewed journals. Publishing in academic journals is a long and complicated process. The most prestigious journals can reject around 90% of the submissions they receive. Since scholars can only send their manuscript (unpublished work) to one journal at a time, the process is often critiqued for significantly slowing down the dissemination of new knowledge.
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