In scientific research scholarly journal articles are the primary way research is communicated and spread. Thousands of articles written by scientists for scientists and other scholars are published in high-quality peer-reviewed journals every year. Because these journals are not widely available outside academic and research institutions you may have never seen scholarly articles and may be overwhelmed by them at first. This tutorial will walk you through the basics of scholarly articles and unlock their mysteries.
The Primary Research Article
The primary research article is the single most important piece of scholarly literature. It is the primary means by which scientists report the results of their research to the world. A primary research articles begins when a single researcher (or more often a group of them) perform an experiment. When you do an experiment in lab you are often assigned a lab report with an Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusions sections. A primary research article is this same document containing all of those sections but expanded and fully cited that is intended for publication. >Here are the main parts of a research article that you should be able to recognize:
Review articles are written by researchers to summarize many primary research articles in a larger context. They contain no new research and so are made up of only the article information, abstract, a lengthy multi-part discussion of many primary research articles, and an extensive list of references. Review article are recommended when you are interested in learning about the state of the research on a particular topic so you can work on finding exactly the primary research article that contains the research you want. Here's how to use a review article to find a primary research article that interests you:
Reading a Citation
Now that you can find citations at the end of articles you'll need to know how to decipher them. Like an address, a citation is made up of several different parts that will help you locate a particular article. The pieces of information you'll need are:
Unlike an address, these pieces of information don't always come in the same order. Here are four slightly different citations for the same article
You'll also notice that sometimes the journal name is abbreviated. if you aren't sure what an abbreviation means try entering it into a web search.
If you are unsure about how to read a any citation ask your TA, professor, or librarian to help you.
The librarian at your library lab will show you how to begin searching for primary research and review articles as well as how to find articles from popular publications like magazines and newspapers.