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Read a scholarly article

Types of scholarly articles

There are a few different types of scholarly articles:

  • Original research
  • Brief communications
  • Review articles
  • Case studies
  • Methods / methodologies
  • Humanities articles

Most of these article types are structured in the same way; check out the structure of a scholarly article page for more information about this common structure.

Original research

  • Most common type of scholarly article
  • Often used in social sciences (education, psychology, etc.) & sciences (chemistry, meteorology, etc.)
  • Typically includes introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion

Example: Sogunro, O.A. (2015). Motivating factors for adult learners in higher education. International Journal of Higher Education, 4(1), 22-37. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1060548.pdf

Review articles

A.K.A. literature reviews, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses

  • Provide a summary of original research on a topic
  • May point out limitations or gaps in existing research
  • May suggest future directions for research on the topic
  • May be organized thematically or chronologically

Example: Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews, K., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P.,...Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic literature review of students as partners in higher education. International Journal for Students As Partners, 1(1). Retrieved from https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/ijsap/article/view/3119

Brief communications

A.K.A. letters, reports

  • They're like movie trailers for original academic research
  • Provide a quick preview of original research
  • Useful in competitive subject areas (ex. scientists competing for funding)
  • Useful in quickly changing subject areas (ex. medicine)
  • Usually formatted like original research articles (introduction, literature review, etc.)

Example: Yuan, C., Wei, G., Dey, L., Karrison, T., Nahlik, L., Maleckar, S., ...Moss, J. (2004). American ginseng reduces warfarin’s effect in healthy patients: A randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141(1), 23-27. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.696.5919&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Case studies

  • Report on a specific case or instance of something
  • Can refer to a thing (ex. a rare medical condition), a place (ex. a specific river), or a group of people (ex. nurses)
  • Purpose is not to generalize, but to let others know similar things (ex. medical condition, river pollution, job stress) may occur elsewhere
  • Often formatted like original research articles (introduction, literature review, etc.)

Example: Bansal, P., & Kockelman, K. M. (2018). Are we ready to embrace connected and self-driving vehicles? A case study of Texans. Transportation, 45(2), 641-675. Retrieved from http://www.caee.utexas.edu/prof/kockelman/public_html/TRB17TxOpinionsCAVs.pdf

Methods / methodologies

  • Scholarly article focused on new methods, tests, or other measure
  • May be a new method or a revision of an existing one; should be an improvement over existing methods
  • Usually formatted like original research articles (introduction, literature review, etc.)

Example: Hurtado, J.C., Mosquera, M.M., de Lazzari, E., Martínez, E., Torner, N., Isanta, R.,...Estape, J.V. (2015). Evaluation of a new, rapid, simple test for the detection of influenza virus. BMC Infectious Diseases, 15(44), 1-4. Retrieved from https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-015-0775-5

Humanities articles

  • Includes subjects like English, philosophy, history, and the arts (fine art, theatre, music, etc.)
  • Often begins with an introduction that contains the thesis and a brief overview of the arguments that will be presented
  • Literature and history articles often examine primary sources (though they approach them in different ways)
  • Philosophy articles focus on ideas and arguments  
  • Articles in these areas tend to have a more narrative structure (they're telling a story)
  • May have some features of other article types (esp. abstracts and references) 

Example: Fazel, V., & Geddes, L. (2016). "Give me your hands if we be friends": collaborative authority in Shakespeare fan fiction. Shakespeare, 12(3), 274-286. Retrieved from https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/mla:673/

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