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Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

How to Identify Research Articles

  • Research articles, or primary articles, are based on original research and are published in scholarly journals. Other kinds of articles appear in scholarly journals as well, including commentary and review articles.
  • If you need to limit your sources to research articles, you must be able to tell the difference.
  • Most research articles will contain the following:


A summary of the article. (Note: Abstracts appear in secondary articles as well.)


Sometimes called "methodology" or "materials and methods," this section describes the author's research methods and tools: experiment, survey, data sources, etc.


Also called "findings," this is the section of the article in which raw data are presented.


Sometimes called "analysis," this is the section in which the author analyzes the data.


The author's conclusions based on the analysis.


List of references to works cited in the article.

These standard parts of a research article may not always be labeled, and sometimes they are combined (for example, "Data and Methods"). Still, every research article indicates what methods and tools were used to conduct the research, what the results were, and how the author interprets those results.

From W. Frank Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky.  Used by permission.

Scholarly articles are formal conversations that occur among professionals in published journals.

  • The discussions can go on for years.

  • Unlike magazines, newspapers and most websites, scholarly articles are peer-reviewed.

You can often easily recognize a scholarly article by its anatomy, which typically includes an Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results and Discussion, Conclusion, References, and Appendix/Appendices.


Anatomy of a Scholarly Article Infographic