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EDUC 5103 Educational Research: Searching Peer-Reviewed Literature

Journal Article Categories

From the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, chapter 1:

Journal articles are usually reports of empirical studies, literature reviews, theoretical articles, methodological articles, or case studies.

Categories of Journal Articles:

  • Empirical Studies- original research, including secondary analyses that test hypotheses by presenting novel analyses of data not considered or addressed previously. Sections: introduction, method, results, discussion
  • Literature Reviews - critical evaluations of material that has already been published. Authors of literature reviews organize, integrate and evaluate previously published material and consider the progress of research in clarifying a problem.
  • Theoretical Articles - authors draw on existing research to advance theory. Authors trace the development of theory and expand and refine theoretical constructs.
  • Methodological Articles - generally present new approaches and methods or modify existing methods of research to the academic community.
  • Case Studies - reports of case materials obtained by working with an individual, group, community or organization. Casse studies generally illustrate a problem and indicate a means of solving a problem.
  • Other Types of Articles - brief reports, commentary, replies on previously published articles, book reviews, obituaries, letter to the editor, etc.


What is the difference between Primary Source Research Articles and Literature Review articles?


Primary source research articles are also known as empirical studies. According to thePublication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition (p. 10):

Empirical studies are reports of original research. These include secondary analyses that test hypotheses by presenting novel analyses of data not considered or addressed in previous reports. They typically consist of distinct sections that reflect the stages in the research process and that appear in the following sequence:

  • introduction: development of the problem under investigation, including its historical antecedents, and statement of the purpose of the investigation;
  • method: description of the procedures used to conduct the investigation;
  • results: report of the findings and analyses; and
  • discussion: summary, interpretation, and implications of the results.

Some examples of empirical studies below.

To search PsycINFO for empirical studies, there is a limit on the Advanced Search screen, toward the bottom:

EBSCOhost screenshot of Methodology limiter and Empirical Study highlighted

Note: selecting that option does not guarantee all your results will be exclusively empirical studies. You'll need to read the article very carefully to ensure you have found original research. Further, you may need to track the citation backward to find the citation for the original research (This is a research strategy called cycling.) See the video link on the left for a demonstration of how to search methodologies in PsycINFO.


According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition (p. 10):

Literature reviews, including research syntheses and meta-analyses, are critical evaluations of material that has already been published. In meta-analyses, authors use quantitative procedures to statistically combine the results of of studies. By organizing, integrating, and evaluating previously published material, authors of literature reviews consider the progress of research toward clarifying a problem. In a sense, literature reviews are tutorials, in that authors

  • define and clarify the problem;
  • summarize previous investigations to inform the reader of the state of research;
  • identify relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature; and
  • suggest the next step or steps in solving the problem.

The components or literature reviews can be arranged in various ways (e.g., by grouping research based on similarity in the concepts or theories of interest, methodological similarities among studies reviewed, or the historical development of the field).

See an example of a literature review below.

Scholarly and Popular Materials

                Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources
Scholarly Popular
Author Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise. Author may not be named; a professional writer or journalist who publishes on a wide variety of topics and lacks subject expertise.
Audience Scholars, researchers, students. General public.
Citation Sources cited in footnotes and/or bibliography. Rare. Scanty, if any, information about sources.
Review Peer-reviewed or refereed by scholars in a similar or the same field. Not reviewed or reviewed by non-specialized editors.
Publisher Usually an academic or scholarly press. None, unknown, or popular presses that publish a wide range of popular sources.
Format Books & scholarly journal articles. Magazines, websites, and newspapers.



Our thanks to former OSU Librarian Dan Chaney for sharing many resources from his LibGuide.

EBSCO Methodology Limiter

Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals

Test Your Knowledge

Take this 9 question quiz to test your knowledge of the difference between scholarly vs. popular publications.