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Honors Scholars: Peer Review

Primary Research Articles

Are all the articles in a scholarly journal primary research articles?

No. Journals also publish other items. Some article types are listed below. While these articles can be very important and reputable, they cannot be considered primary research. If you have access to our databases (on-campus or via the GALILEO password), Click for examples.

  • Information/Opinion Essay: Gives advice and information, usually targeted to practicioners -- doctors, teachers, counselors, etc. These essays are sometimes in first person. - example
  • Book review/essay: Much longer than popular books reviews, academic books reviews often compare and analyze similar works, and contain a detailed bibliography -- example
  • Literature review: A lit review surveys research done in a field, drawing conclusions and anticipating trends, but without detailed methodology information or data on any one research project -- example
  • Reader Letters/Response Articles/Errata: Responses to articles published in a previous issue. These may be informal letters, or they may be very structured debates that cite other literature. There may be cases in which someone reports an error or corrects misprints of data. A letter may also describe recent research, but the content has not gone through the peer review process -- example
How can I identify a primary research article?
It should have the following parts:
  • Title - These are often long and technical.
  • Author Information - This includes author name, affiliation (such as a university or laboratory) and contact information.
  • Citation - Citations include article title, journal or source name, volume and issue information and pagination.  A DOI number may be on the first page of a journal, but it may be easier to find the DOI on the database record. (DOIs are used in APA style citation)
  • Abstract - This is a summary of the whole article. 
  • Introduction - This outlines the problem being examined -- the purpose or hypothesis -- and may give some background about the problem, or previous research.
  • Methodology - This is a vital section.  In order for an experiment to be reproduceable, methodology must be thoroughly described.  This may include discussion of materials and subject selection.
  • Data/Results - Data may be presented in tables, charts, figures, or illustrations.
  • Discussion/Conclusions -This section explains and interprets the results, drawing a final conclusion about the problem.  Primary research may bring new information to the discipline, or may confirm or dispute previous findings.
  • References - Are in a consistent style, and are extensive.

How to check for peer-review

Sometimes it's not clear whether the results in a database are really peer-reviewed or not, or whether a particular journal is.

Librarians look to a database called Ulrich's when we want to know whether a journal is peer-reviewed.

Another rule of thumb is whether the database has an limiter option for peer-review. If it doesn't have one, typically either everything in the database is peer-reviewed, or nothing is.