A journal is a place of record in which business transactions are recorded in chronological order. A firm may use several specialized journals, such as a purchases journal or sales journal, to separately record transactions in the more high-volume areas. The general journal is used to record more general, lower-volume transactions. Once entered into a journal, transactions are then posted to general ledger accounts. Journals are the best source of information when researching the nature of business transactions, since they identify source documents.

Entries made into a journal employ double-entry accounting, where balancing debits and credits are used. The entries also state the date, accounts impacted, and amounts, as well as an identifier for the source document.