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Journals & Periodicals: Identifying Scholarly Sources

Learn how to distinguish between the 3 major categories of information sources: scholarly, popular, and trade.

Components of Research Articles

Research articles will generally have some version of the following headings. However, it is important to remember that not all research articles will have all of the headings listed, and they may contain some headings not listed below. Therefore, the following information should be used as a guideline when looking for research articles. Here's what to look for:

  • Title
  • Abstract – helps to determine relevance of article to the reader’s interests.
  • Introduction/literature review
  • Purpose of the study/hypothesis/problem statement
  • Methodology/procedures/research design
  • Major findings/results/analysis/discussion
  • Summary/conclusion/ideas for future studies/implications
  • Works cited/references/acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • Appendices
  • Tables, charts, figures, statistical data (throughout the article)


Literature Review: this article was peer-reviewed, but it is a literature review. Notice that the subheadings used describe the topic of those sections rather than a portion of the experimental process. 

Sample first 2 pages of a literature review published in a journal

Newberg, A. B. (2011). Spirituality and the aging brain. Generations, 35(2), 83-91. [See the full article.]

Empirical Study: This peer-reviewed study clearly lists (in the abstract and throughout the paper) the intentions of the study, the methods, the results, and the conclusions.

Not pictured here: even though this is a report of original research, the authors still had a length list of References that used to support their research, just as a literature review would include a lengthy list of papers. Scholarship is a conversation!

Sample of 2 pages of an empirical study

Semiz, U. M., Basoglu, C., Ebrinc, S., & Cetin, M. (2008). Nightmare disorder, dream anxiety, and subjective sleep quality in patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 62(1), 48-55. [See the full article.]