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PSY 1100: Introduction to Psychological Sciences(Ficco): Dissecting Research Articles

Scholarly Journals?


Q: What is a scholarly journal?

A: These are articles written by people considered to be experts in their fields. They spend years conducting experiments, reviewing other literature on the topic, and writing their article. It often goes through a very intense review process to make sure the information is objective and accurate. It can often take a year or two for it to be published.

Q: What's the difference between a peer reviewed journal, academic journal and scholarly journal?

A: Nothing- all three are just different names for the same idea.

Q: How can I tell if an article is scholarly?

A: Here are some things to look for in order to determine if an article is scholarly:

  • Often start with an abstract, or summary, of the article.

  • Include footnotes or bibliographies.

  • Generally are longer than articles in popular or news magazines.

  • Are reviewed (refereed) by an editorial board and revised before being accepted for publication.

  • Include the language, or jargon, of the subject discipline.   It assumes some degree of subject knowledge by the reader.

  • Report original research or experimentation results.

  • Are authored by subject experts, researchers, or scholars in their fields.   Author credentials are frequently listed.

  • Are published by professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association   (Journal of the American Medical Association), or the National Council on Family Relations   (Journal of Marriage and the Family).

Q: How can I find these articles?

A: Many of the library databases allow you to limit your search results to journals that are scholarly. That does not mean that you will only get scholarly articles though. You want to review the articles that come back and make sure they meet the qualifications.


Q: What is the difference between a scholarly journal, a trade journal and a popular magazine?

A: A trade journal is typically from professional organizations in a specific field, but articles are not peer reviewed. They are a great way to find out current issues and practices in a specific field. Some professional organizations will have a scholarly journal and a trade journal. Popular magazines are like Time, Newsweek, Vogue or Sports Illustrated. These articles are written by journalists and are for the general public. They are a good way to get an introduction to a topic.


Anatomy of a citation

Part of a Research Article

A primary research article that reports on original research has several components.  Understanding what  type of information can be found in each section is important to using the article effectively.  A research article typically has the following:

Titles indicate what the study is about.  It also lists the the author(s) of the article and their credentials so you can determine whether the are credible.  

Abstracts provide a brief summary of the article. 

Introduction/ Literature Reviews introduce the topic, provide a review and synthesis of previous research conducted in relation to the topic, and state the the hypothesis - a statement of what the researchers expect to find from their study.  Sometimes the Introduction and Literature Review are two separate sections. 

Methods describe how the study was conducted.  It includes information about sample sizes, control variables, instruments and procedures use to collect the data to be analyzed. Well designed and documented methods are important because it allows other researchers to replicate the study in future research.  Describing the methods also enable readers to determine if the study design was valid or if it should have been designed differently. 

Results report the findings of the study and whether the hypothesis were found to be true.  It is an analytical section that provides statistical documentation to demonstrate whether the results are valid and reliable.  Researchers should report results that are both statistically significant and insignificant. 

Discussions describe and interpret the results.  This section explains how results contribute to the existing body of scientific knowledge, lists limitations of the study and suggests areas for new research.

Conclusions recap the results and discussion section.  

References/Bibliography list the sources the authors consulted when writing the article.  Most of the sources listed will be referenced in the Introduction/Literature Review section.  This section is very useful for finding additional articles related to your topic and is a part of the research article trifecta. 

--Source:  Subramanyam, R. V. (2013). The art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectively. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. 17(1): 65-70. doi: 10.4103/0973-029X.110733