Table of Contents
Types of Scholarly Literature
You will encounter many types of articles and it is important to distinguish between these different categories of scholarly literature. Keep in mind the following definitions.
Peer-reviewed (or refereed): Refers to articles that have undergone a rigorous review process, often including revisions to the original manuscript, by peers in their discipline, before publication in a scholarly journal. This can include empirical studies, review articles, meta-analyses among others.
Empirical study (or primary article): An empirical study is one that aims to gain new knowledge on a topic through direct or indirect observation and research. These include quantitative or qualitative data and analysis. In science, an empirical article will often include the following sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
Review article: In the scientific literature, this is a type of article that provides a synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. These are useful when you want to get an idea of a body of research that you are not yet familiar with. It differs from a systematic review in that it does not aim to capture ALL of the research on a particular topic.
Systematic review: This is a methodical and thorough literature review focused on a particular research question. It's aim is to identify and synthesize all of the scholarly research on a particular topic in an unbiased, reproducible way to provide evidence for practice and policy-making. It may involve a meta-analysis (see below).
Meta-analysis: This is a type of research study that combines or contrasts data from different independent studies in a new analysis in order to strengthen the understanding of a particular topic. There are many methods, some complex, applied to performing this type of analysis.
Evaluating Scientific Evidence
The page Evaluating Scientific Evidence gives concrete criteria for evaluating scientific evidence. This is a great resource for becoming more proficient in understanding the trustworthiness of information that you may encounter.
Additional resources for evaluating the information that you find
- Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals: A Checklist of Criteria shows how to evaluate periodicals by looking at their format, intended audience, and appearance.
- Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools lists ways to analyze the Web sites you find.
- Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Sites offers a table of suggestions for evaluating web sites.