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PSYC 2700 - Abnormal Psychology: Reading Scholarly Literature

Scholarly or Popular?

Reading "scholarly," or academic, literature is quite different from reading most types of literature that students may be accustomed to. Scholarly publications contain articles written by professionals in the field whose credentials are readily accessible. The articles may be original research or an extension of previous research. They are often illustrated with graphs and tables, and they have a list of cited references at the end. Articles submitted to an academic journal are "peer reviewed" or "juried," meaning other experts read and suggest revisions to the author before the final version is accepted for publication.

Popular magazines, on the other hand, do not provide in depth analysis of a given subject; they present an overview.  Although the magazines themselves may focus on a specific subject, the treatment that the subject is given is of a more general nature; the information informs but does not explore the subject as extensively as an academic article. The authors of magazine articles are often staff writers or freelance journalist that may be knowledgeable regarding the subject but do not have the credentials requisite for expertise.

Use the information and links on this page to help you learn more about reading and understanding scholarly literature.

Types of Journal Articles

You will encounter a number of different types of articles when searching academic journals. Some of the most common types of articles include:

  • Research Articles: Sometimes referred to as Original Research or Primary Research, these articles typically include headings such as Abstract, Background or Literature Review, Objective, Methods, Results, and Conclusions or Discussion. “Original Research” indicates that the author or authors are the ones who completed the research and are reporting the results of their own research. The best way to identify this is by looking at the full-text of the article to see if the authors are reporting on their own research or the research done by someone else.
  • Review Articles: These articles do not present original research, but rather summarize and analyze the findings reported in other articles on a particular topic. Review articles often look similar to research articles and share some of the same headings, but usually lack a Method and Results section.
  • Theoretical Articles: A theoretical article draws upon currently published research literature in a particular field of study. The author often presents their own theory, explaining how it connects to previously established theories. These articles, while typically peer-reviewed, do not contain original research. They often include terms such as concepts, conceptual, framework, model, theoretical foundation, and perspectives in the article title.
  • Case Study: A case study article traces and analyzes the development of a unique person, group, or situation over a period of time in an effort to demonstrate a relevant thesis or principle.
  • Meta-Analysis: A meta-analysis looks at data compiled from across various studies on a particular topic and provides a new analysis to aid in understanding of that topic.
  • Systematic Review: A systematic review is a more focused and thorough literature review that attempts to synthesize (without bias) all scholarly articles written about a specific aspect of a research topic to provide evidence for practice and policy-making.
  • Opinion, Letter to the Editor, Book Review, Commentary: It is important to note that even though these types of articles are published in academic journals, they are not peer-reviewed research articles, and, while they may be informative, are not usually appropriate for citing in a research paper.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Click anywhere on the image to enlarge.

anatomy of a scholarly article

How to Read a Scholarly Article

What is Peer Review?

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