Distinguishing Between Primary Research Articles & Review Articles

Distinguishing Between Primary Research Articles & Review Articles

Primary Research Articles and Review Articles

Primary Research Article

A primary research article reports on an empirical research study conducted by the authors. It is almost always published in a peer-reviewed journal. This type of article:

  • Asks a research question or states a hypothesis or hypotheses
  • Identifies a research population
  • Describes a specific research method
  • Tests or measures something
  • Includes a section called "method" or "methodology." This may only appear in the article, not the abstract.
  • Includes a section called "results."

Review articles

Review articles are NOT primary research articles; they are a summarization of the current state of research on a given topic. Review articles provide information on the main researchers in a field, significant gaps in research, major advances and discoveries, and future steps. They are good places to go if you are interested in getting a basic idea of your topic.


Additional resources

Find and Use Review Articles (WI+RE, UCLA Library) - provides an overview and examples of differences between primary research articles and review articles.


Strategies for Reading Scholarly Articles

Strategies for Reading Scholarly Articles

Strategies for reading scholarly articles

When reading a scholarly article, consider the following:

1. Know your research question: As you explore resources, your research question may change or evolve; still, you want to maintain a solid research focus.

2. You don't have to read the entire article from beginning to end: Start with the Title and Abstract, which give you the purpose of the article, a small amount of context, and a summary of the findings. After you read these elements, ask yourself:

Do the Title & Abstract help add to your understanding of the topic? Do they provide answers to your research question(s)? 

If they don't do any of these things, you should locate a different article. But if they add to your understanding, move on to the Introduction and Conclusion sections of the article. After reading these areas, ask yourself:

What did the authors want to learn; what did they study? (Review the thesis statement, research question, hypothesis)

Next, take a deeper look at the Results section, which includes specific pieces of data, statistics, or examples from the study. Afterwards, move on to the Discussion section, which interprets these results and helps you understand why they're important.

If it takes too much effort to make the article "fit" into your research, set it aside and move on to the next one. After reading the whole article, ask yourself:

How does the article answer my research question(s)?

3. Read the References/Bibliography section: Reading references or works cited may lead you to other critical resources.

4. Annotate the article as you read: Keeping your research question(s) in mind as you annotate (mark up) the article. Paraphrase key information and concepts that can be cited in your research assignment.

5. Read the article at least twice: Scholarly articles are incredibly complex, so definitely read twice to make sure you understand the content.

Additional Resources:

Art of Reading a Journal Article - Methodically and Effectively

Reading a Social Science-related scholarly article

Evaluation during Reading (Purdue OWL)

Reading a scholarly article (video) - Kishwaukee College Library

How to read a scholarly article (Western University)





Determining Credibility of Your Sources

Determining Credibility of Your Sources

Credibility of sources

Determining credibility of your sources is critical to selecting appropriate information sources for your research assignments. Scholarly journals are regarded as the most credible types of sources because of the rigorous peer review process they undergo.

You will likely consult non-scholarly sources including newspaper articles and websites for general background information on your chosen topic; thus, you will also need to determine credibility of these sources.

Here are some ways to identify credibility:

  • Can you identify the author(s)? If the source is anonymous, why?
  • Can you identify author credentials (education, job expertise)? Can these be verified elsewhere?
  • Is the author affiliated with an academic institution or credible organization?
  • Is there an "About Us" page that describes the organization?
  • Do a Google search for the author's name (enclose in quotation marks) and see what kind of sites come up. Do they seem credible?
  • Does the information have grammatical/spelling errors? 
  • Does it list sources or links to factual information? Are the links updated or do they lead to 404 error pages?
  • Is there a bibliography?
  • Can this information be verified elsewhere?
  • What kind of editorial vetting did the information undergo?
  • Is the research methodology adequately explained?
  • Who is the intended audience for the information? Academics? General public?
  • Is the information appropriate for your research assignment?
  • Does the author present objective arguments or make it clear when they're expressing opinions?
  • Is the website personal or institutional?
  • What other views are expressed?
  • Are there advertisements? If so, how are they differentiated from the content?
  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? To persuade? To market?
  • What does the URL say about the website? .com=Commercial, .edu=Educational, .gov=Government, .mil=Military, .org=Non-Profit
  • Is the information outdated or up to date?
  • Can you ascertain content's date of creation?
  • Are the links working?
  • Credible websites will display "last updated" dates; working links indicate the website is being maintained regularly.

Source: University of South Carolina, Upstate Library



How do I structure a keyword search?

How do I structure a keyword search?

LBST 307 - How do I structure a keyword search?

Before you embark on your database search, take a few moments to identify keywords, which will be a timesaver for you. Some things to try:

  • Write down any research questions you have about your topic; these should be open-ended (starting with How...? or Why...?)
  • Identify the key concepts from your research question (look at the nouns)
  • Write down synonyms for those key concepts

Taking a few minutes to think about and identify some keywords before starting your search will help you search more efficiently, which will save you time (and frustration).

  • Identify important concepts from your research question (look for nouns)
  • Brainstorm some synonyms (to help you find more information)
  • Keep track of useful terms you discover during research and add those to your set of keywords

Ex. research question: How are youth building critical climate justice movements?

(Identify the keywords in this research question)

How are youth building critical climate justice movements?

youth climate justice activism
child* climate change social justice
adolescent global warming community organizing
teen* activism environmental*

Tips on searching the databases

Here are some general tips on searching for articles for your report:

Tip Examples
Use keywords, not long search phrases

Instead of searching for "How are youth building critical climate justice movements?" break down your search into the main keywords:

youth, climate justice, social movements

Use quotation marks (" ") to keep phrases together

Use AND to combine different keywords

"climate change" AND youth
Use OR to combine similar/associated keywords "climate change" or "global warming"
Look for ways to limit your search in the database You can often limit by type of article (scholarly and peer-reviewed), year of publicationsubject 

Databases for Liberal Studies 307 Research

Databases for Liberal Studies 307 Research

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