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PSYC 4363 - Adult Development & Aging: Searching Peer-Reviewed Literature

Test Your Knowledge

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

Magazines vs. Scholarly Journals

EBSCO Methodology Limiter

Scholarly / Peer-Reviewed vs. Popular/Trade

While Wikipedia can sometimes be a good starting point, it is not considered "scholarly."  If you are you having trouble distinguishing between the peer-reviewed/scholarly journals from the trade publication or popular magazines, Below is a link to a document that will help explain the differences.  


It is also important to be able to distinguish between review articles and research articles. A review article’s primary purpose is not to present new research, but to summarize, analyze, discuss, and provide an overview of previously published work on a topic. A research article is designed to present new research, methods, and/or findings. Research articles often employ the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Research, and Discussion) format. Below are a few articles of interest on this topic.

Journal Article Categories

From the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th 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?

Empirical Studies

Primary source research articles are also known as empirical studies. According to the Publication 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 appear below. 

To search PsycINFO for empirical studies, there is a limiter on the Advanced Search screen, toward the bottom titled "Methodology" where you can select "Empirical Study" as a desired option:

PsycINFO limiter selection

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.

Literature Reviews

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. 


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