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Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Articles

What are Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Articles?

  • Articles that report the results of a research study or make an academic argument.
  • Published in academic journals.
  • Show what scholars and experts in the field have discovered about your topic and the current conversation around it.
  • Peer-reviewed before being accepted for publication, where they are vetted by other experts in their field. The peer-review process helps ensure high quality and accuracy.
  • Read and used by professionals to improve their work practices or make informed policy decisions—this is called "evidence based practice."

How are Scholarly Articles Structured?

Most scholarly articles follow the structure seen in the image above. Understanding this structure will help you be a more efficient reader and understand which parts of the article are most useful to you as a researcher.

  • Abstract: A summary of the article. Often includes the main research question asked by the author and a brief summary of the findings.
  • Introduction: Sets up the argument or research question of the article—what is being studied and why.
    • Literature Review: A summary of previous research that informed the article—usually illustrates gaps in previous research and demonstrates a need for the current article. This may be a separate section or part of the introduction.
  • Methods / Methodology: How the research study was designed and conducted, including if they used methods that are quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods.
  • Results: What the author found in their research—usually includes statistics and data, often illustrated using charts and graphs.
  • Discussion / Findings: An interpretation of what the author found—their main findings or takeaways from the research. This is the "meat" of the author's discoveries and often the most useful part to reference in your own papers.
  • Conclusion: What the research means to the field and what questions remain to be answered.

Tips for Reading and Using Scholarly Articles

Pro Research Tips

It may seem counterintuitive, but you don't need to read scholarly articles from start to finish—in fact, we recommend you skim and read articles out of order! Especially as you're choosing which articles are most relevant to your research, try reading in this order:

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Skip to Discussion and Conclusions
  4. Circle back to Methods and Results if needed

This allows you to discover what the researchers learned through their study and decide if this is relevant to your own research, before you go back and spend more time looking at their methods and data. Usually, the Discussion and Conclusions sections are the parts of the article you should quote or paraphrase in your own paper, since those sections include the main ideas learned through the research study.

Be cautious about referencing information found in the Introduction section of articles. There's a good chance the author is actually referencing previous research, in which case you would want to use the citation to track down the original article and cite that instead.

Primary/Empirical Sources and Secondary Sources

Primary source articles describe original research studies; these are also known as empirical articles. Primary source articles are written by the people who conducted the research and mark the first time the research has been published. Secondary sources usually comment on or review primary sources and demonstrate trends over time. Primary sources containing original research start a scholarly conversation, whereas secondary sources continue that conversation through discussion, summaries, and commentary.

You'll most often use primary/empirical articles in your research papers, but secondary sources can be a great way to introduce yourself to a topic or to find a collection of articles related to a topic.

  Primary/Empirical Sources Secondary Sources
Definition Sources that present original research, written by the people who conducted the research. Sources that comment on, summarize, review, or discuss primary sources.
Common Formats Original research articles in scholarly journals, conference papers, dissertations. Literature review articles in journals, magazine or newspaper articles summarizing a research study, handbooks with literature review chapters.

An article detailing how one psychological study was designed, how they analyzed the data, and presenting their original findings.

An article compiling various literature published on a psychological topic over a five-year period, summarizing results from the studies and making commentary on trends.
Clues to Look For Look for a section in the article labeled Method or Methodology—if it's a primary source, this section will describe how they conducted their experiment or research study. Look for the word "review" or the phrase "literature review" in the title of the article or in the article's abstract. A Method or Methodology section may also describe the steps they took to compile their literature review. Newspaper and magazine articles will almost always be secondary sources reviewing or summarizing primary sources.

Article Examples


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Angela Beatie
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FL115, Fulton Library

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