General journals, or books of original entry, record financial transactions. These journals utilize double entry bookkeeping, meaning that accounts are debited and credited with the same amount across accounts in order of date. Historically, financial information was hand-written into a variety of journals such as sales journals, purchases journals, cash disbursements journals, and cash receipts journals.
Now, financial information is written in specialized journals alongside general journals. When financial transactions are totaled within the general journal, the information is then periodically summarized in the general ledger. Note that specialized journals often take up the bulk of record keeping. Therefore, the general journal may only be used for irregular transactions.
Detailed within the general journal is an entry number associated with a transaction, the date in which the transactions occurred, account names or numbers which will be debited or credited, totals of debits or credits, a description of the entry, and a posting reference to the general account for future reference.