Variety of Peer Reviewed Articles

Characteristics of Scholarly Literature

Look for these:

  • Often have a formal appearance with tables, graphs, and diagrams
  • Always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies
  • Usually have an abstract or summary paragraph above the text; may have sections describing methodology
  • Articles are written by an authority or expert in the field
  • The language includes specialized terms and the jargon of the discipline
  • Titles of scholarly journals often contain the word "Journal", "Review", "Bulletin", or "Research"
  • Usually have a narrow or specific subject focus
  • Contains original research, experimentation, or in-depth studies in the field
  • Written for researchers, professors, or students in the field
  • Often reviewed by the author's peers before publication (peer-reviewed or refereed)
  • Advertising is minimal or none


Image courtesy of UC Merced Library


Types of Scholarly Literature

There are a number of different kinds of scholarly publication. One category is called literature review, but there are a number of others whose purposes vary. One type of scholarly, peer reviewed literature has as it's goal concept, or policy, analysis.

Types of Scholarly Publication

Peer-reviewed (or refereed):  Refers to articles that have undergone a rigorous review process, often including revisions to the original manuscript, by peers in their discipline, before publication in a scholarly journal.  This can include empirical studies, review articles, meta-analyses among others.

Empirical study (or primary article):  An empirical study is one that aims to gain new knowledge on a topic through direct or indirect observation and research.  These include quantitative or qualitative data and analysis. In science, an empirical article will often include the following sections:  Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.

Review article:  In the scientific literature, this is a type of article that provides a synthesis of existing research on a particular topic.  These are useful when you want to get an idea of a body of research that you are not yet familiar with.  It differs from a systematic review in that it does not aim to capture ALL of the research on a particular topic.

Systemic review: This is a methodical and thorough literature review focused on a particular research question.  It's aim is to identify and synthesize all of the scholarly research on a particular topic in an unbiased, reproducible way to provide evidence for practice and policy-making.  It may involve a meta-analysis (see below). 

Meta-analysis:  This is a type of research study that combines or contrasts data from different independent studies in a new analysis in order to strengthen the understanding of a particular topic.  There are many methods, some complex, applied to performing this type of analysis.

(Adapted from Scholarly Literature Types, Cornell University)

What is a Scholarly or Peer Reviewed Articles

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