Reading the CitationAuthors' CredentialsAbstractIntroduction: Hypothesis/ThesisLiterature ReviewMethodologyResults/DataDiscussion/ConclusionsReferences
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Research Guide: Scholarly Journals  

Last Updated: Jul 26, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Scholarly vs. Popular Sources



Some scholarly journal articles are SCIENTIFIC STUDIES. How do you tell if you have found a study?

Look for these elements:

  • Abstract. Gives you a brief overview of what the paper is about.
  • Introduction. Provides information on why the research was conducted, and usually explains prior research in this subject.
  • Methods. Gives information about how the research was conducted and carried out.
  • Discussion/Analysis/Conclusion. Explains what the data means after the research study or experiment has been conducted, and why they support the conclusion.
  • References/Bibliography. List of resources the author(s) referenced.

: Click here to get to a list of our databases offering scholarly articles.


More information:

An excellent tutorial on Reading a Scientific Paper from the Purdue University Library gives a thorough overview of reading scientific literature - why we do it, how we do it, and how they are structured.

Need help defining what kind of research study was conducted? Types of research designs from is a great introduction to research methods and experimental designs.

Trying to figure out what all those charts and graphs mean? Vizualising Scientific Data from Visionlearning discusses how to make sense of visual information.

For more information on distinguishing between a scholarly journal article and a popular magazine or newspaper article, visit the library's scholarly journals guide.


Review Articles are NOT Studies

Throughout the research process, you're likely to come across different types of scientific articles, and some of them will be review articles. A review article does not cover original research; rather, it is summarizing the results of various research articles to give the reader an overview of the research and study about a particular topic. In many cases, it's best to find the original research article for the most complete information you'll need - this is especially true because summaries may not include materials and methods.

In addition, you may see other articles from scientific journals that are neither peer-reviewed research nor review articles. These can include sections on science news, or letters to the editor. While these contain scientific information, these articles may not be written by scientists and are not peer-reviewed. Again, they may refer to a research study, and that is the best source to consider.


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