Journal Entry Definition

Cite this article as:"Journal Entry Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 20, 2019, last accessed September 26, 2020,


Journal Entry Definition

Journal entries are used to record every transaction and event of a business in the accounting system since they are the beginning point in the accounting cycle. These entries are recorded in the general journal as business events continue happening over the accounting period to show how each event changes in the accounting equation.

A Little More on What is a Journal Entry

The following are steps to be followed in making an accounting journal entry.

Identify transactions

If a person does not know that a transaction has occurred, then they cannot record it, so one has first to identify the business transaction. For example, if a company purchases a vehicle, it means a new asset has to be added to the accounting equation.

Analyze transactions

After an event that impacts the accounting equation economically is identified, it is analyzed. This is done to determine how this event altered the accounting equation. E.g., when the company acquired the vehicle, a certain amount of cash was used. Since these two are asset accounts, it means that the accounting equation didn’t change although an economic event took place because the cash was converted into a vehicle.

Journalizing transactions

The next step after identifying and analyzing a business event is recording it. By using debits and credits, journal entries can record the changes in the accounting equation onto the general ledger. Usually, the format of these entries requires the debited accounts to be listed before the credited accounts. Also, each entry has a transaction date, title and a description of the event.

Because of the variety of business transactions, the entries are often categorized and recorded in separate journals. For example, when cash is used to acquire a vehicle, the transaction is likely to be recorded in the cash disbursements journal. Other such journals include the sales journal, accounts receivable journal and the purchases journal.

How to Approach Journal Entries

The journal is used to record all the transactions in the order they occur. It is the official book of recording the transactions and nowadays it is in the form of an accounting software unlike in the past. Each journal entry has to have equal debits and credits to balance the accounting equation.

When performing journal entries, the following four factors must be considered

  •         Find out which accounts are affected by the transaction
  •         Determine if each account is increased or decreased
  •         Determine how much each account has changed
  •         Ensure that the accounting equation always remains in balance

Example- Borrowing money journal entry

Suppose a company called ABC borrowed $200,000 from the bank

The accounts affected by this event include the cash account (asset) and the bank loan payable account (liability). The cash account increases since more cash is gained from the bank while the bank loan payable account increases since the liability of paying back the bank increases.

The journal entry will therefore be:

DR Cash                               200,000

CR Bank Loan Payable        200,000

Example- Purchasing equipment journal entry

Purchased equipment for $500,000 in cash

DR Equipment 500,000

CR Cash       500,000

References for Journal Entry

Academic Research for Journal Entries

  • A risk-based approach to journal entry testing, Lanza, R. B., Gilbert, S., & Lamoreaux, M. (2007). Journal of Accountancy, 204(1), 32. This paper explains how journal entry testing is an essential requirement for external auditors since journal entries have an ability to undermine a financial statement audit.
  • The evolution of the journal entry, Littleton, A. C. (1928). Accounting Review, 383-396. This article describes the process of evolution that the journal entry has undergone in the last 500 years or so while detailing the essential changes.
  • Using Queries to Automate Journal Entry Tests: Agile Machinery Group, Inc., Loraas, T. M., & Searcy, D. L. (2010). Issues in Accounting Education, 25(1), 155-174. This paper presents a case aimed at developing technical querying skills and enhance teamwork by dividing participants into small groups to act as an outsourced internal audit team taking a first-year client which is Agile Machinery Group.
  • Manual journal entry testing: Data analytics and the risk of fraud, Fay, R., & Negangard, E. M. (2017). Journal of Accounting Education, 38, 37-49. This article provides the participants with the opportunity of utilizing their data analysis skills through harnessing the power of Big Data in analyzing journal entries for possible red flags of fraud.
  • Students’ department: Every double-entry a journal entry, Walton, S. (1914). Journal of Accountancy (pre-1986), 17(000004), 314. This paper explains to students on how every double entry recorded in the accounting books is a journal entry
  • Accounting and analysis in collective farms by Journal Entry System of accountancy., LISOVIC, G., MAKAROV, N., & MERCHULAVA, V. (1968). Accounting and analysis in collective farms by Journal Entry System of accountancy. This study examines how collective farms utilize the journal entry system, which involves double entry, in analyzing and accounting for their transactions.
  • Double entry multidimensional accounting, Ellerman, D. P. (1986). Omega, 14(1), 13-22. This article develops a model of double-entry multidimensional accounting in physical terms by use of vectors of property rights because property accounting provides a description, which is valuation free, of the various property transactions that underlie value transactions belonging to ordinary accounting.
  • Accounting for rationality: Double-entry bookkeeping and the rhetoric of economic rationality, Carruthers, B. G., & Espeland, W. N. (1991). American journal of sociology, 97(1), 31-69. This paper supports the claims of Weber, Schumpter, and Sombart on the significance of the double-entry system of bookkeeping when they argued that accounting was essential in enhancing rationality and continued development of capitalism methods in production.
  • Using accounting history and Luca Pacioli to put relevance back into the teaching of double entry, Sangster, A. (2010). Accounting, Business & Financial History, 20(1), 23-39. This article presents an argument of a view that understanding and knowing the double entry is essential for anyone attempting to participate in critical thinking on the validity of accounting information.
  • Data mining journal entries for fraud detection: An exploratory study, Debreceny, R. S., & Gray, G. L. (2010). International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 11(3), 157-181. This study uses the journal entry data sets of 29 organizations to present canvassed views on the application of data entry mining techniques to journal entries.
  • The impact of Information Technology (IT) on modern accounting systems, Ghasemi, M., Shafeiepour, V., Aslani, M., & Barvayeh, E. (2011). Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 28, 112-116. This paper explores the impacts made by Information Technology on accounting systems particularly in providing companies with the ability to develop and utilizing computerized systems to track and record financial transactions.


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