Top ranked sociology journals using article citations as a measure of influence. From ISI's Journal Citation Reports
American Sociological Review (ASR)
American Journal of Sociology
Other Important Journals
Journal of Marriage and the Family
Social Psychology Quarterly
Annual Review of Sociology is also hightly cited
Many professors require students to use scholarly journal articles as resources when writing research papers. Scholarly journals contain articles written by scholars for scholars. Articles are reviewed by other scholars before they are published. This is called peer review.
A scholarly journal article typically has information about authors, an abstract of the article, footnotes/bibliography and perhaps extensive statistics or charts. Authors provide a review of the literature on the subject.
Many databases allow you to restrict your searches to scholarly journals, sometimes called "refereed" journals.
American Sociological Review sample issue, Dec. 2012
Sociologists primarily use use journals, books, data (quantitative & qualitative), and "grey' literature in their research. "Grey" literature is a general term used for research reports that have not been traditionally published, e.g. a report from a think tank. Sociologists also use government documents.
Scholarly journals are heavily used. Scholarly journals are peer reviewed. Articles are written by scholars for scholars. Acceptance rates for articles submitted to the top journals in the field run under 10 percent.
What are the "best" sociology journals?
Often journals are ranked by the number of times their articles are cited in articles published in other scholarly journals. (Sometimes this is taken even further, with journals ranked by how often they are cited by articles published in only in leading journals.)
Journal Rankings in Sociology
Journal Citation Reports Select "JCR Social Science edition," View group of journals by "subject category" and use drop down menu. You can sort by a variety of factors including "Impact."
Sociology Journal rankings from Google Scholar.
"The "Core Influence" of Journals in Sociology Revisited," Footnotes, December 2003.
More About Impact
While journal citations are the traditional way of measuring impact, new tools are being developed including download counts and social media. These are often called "altmetrics." Check out Altmetrics in the Wild: Using Social Media to Explore Scholarly Impact.
As graduate students/scholars you will frequently have to do academic research papers that contain a literature review on your subject. Published papers almost always have literature reviews.
A literature review discusses published scholarship in an area. Generally it summarizes and organizes existing scholarship; it includes specific citations.Your research will build on the work of others or as Google Scholar puts it "stand on the shoulders of giants."
Your ultimate literature review will be in your dissertation!
Sample dissertation (lit review p. 30+)
Oxford Bibliographies Online. Sociology A major new resource which leads users to the most important sociology literature in a wide variety of topics through extensive scholarly bibliographic essays and lists.
Of course finding a relevant literature review is a great jumpstart to your own research!
Note: Sometimes articles are published that are basically literature reviews of a subject. To locate these try adding "literature review" to a subject search in a database. Literature reviews in dissertations are also very helpful since they are so comprehensive. Annual Review of Sociology also has good literature reviews.