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Health Sciences Research Guide: Scholarly or Popular?

Scholarly or Popular?






  • Written by experts or specialists in the field
  • Professional credentials are listed
  •  Written by a journalist or professional writer


  • Written for scholarly readers (professors, researchers, students)
  • Jargon and professional vocabulary
  • Written for the general public, no jargon


  • Long articles with in-depth analysis
  • Often broken into various components including introduction, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion
  • Shorter articles with board analysis


  • In-depth coverage
  • Lots of academic jargon
  • Works cited/reference list
  • Broad or shallow coverage of a topic
  • Very little or no jargon
  • Does not include works cited/reference list


  • Long articles with headings and abstract
  • Graphics include charts, tables, graphs
  • Very few advertisements, if any. Advertisements aimed at specific field.
  • Short articles with inconsistent or no page numbers
  • Glossy or large graphics (photos or illustrations)
  • Colorful
  • Advertisements aimed at general public


  • Reviewed and evaluated by experts in the field (peer review)
  • Not reviewed by experts in the field.


  • Works cited/reference list always included
  • No references/works cited list


Structure of Scholarly Articles

Familiarity with the standard parts of an article, what the intent and purpose are of each, will make reading articles easier. This can be especially helpful for scanning an article to see if it is one you want to read more carefully.

Abstract – a summary of the purpose, methods and conclusions that can help you decide if the article is relevant to your research. 

Introduction – provides a general overview and background of the study.

Literature Review – a review of research in the area up to the time of the study, giving additional background information and placing the study in its scholarly context.

Methodology – This part is an elaboration of the procedures undertaken from start to finish, focus of the study, and how data are collected and organized to complete the experiment. 

Results – a presentation of data gathered in the study, usually with some analysis.

Discussion – the author’s interpretation of the results of the study and the conclusions they draw from them.

References – listing of journal articles and other sources referred to by the author in preparing for the study.  The references can be an extremely useful way to find additional sources for your own research.

*The references are a bibliography of the sources the researchers used to inform their research and this is a great place to look for similar studies or studies that would be useful for your assignment or research paper.  You can try to find the studies in a database using the information in the references.

What is a Review Article?

A review article is essentially a thorough and well-researched summary of the current state of the research on a particular topic.  The authors of a review attempt to give an overview of the research and studies that have been done in a certain topic area and this is a great place to get the "lay of the land" for a topic area to see what research has been done and get a good understanding of the topic itself.  A review article may tell you who the key researchers are in a field, major discoveries or advances in the field, hot debates in a field, gaps in research that sill need to be addressed, or even in which direction the field may be moving. The bibliography or list of references at the end of a review article is a gold mine of information--each study the review mentions is listed and you can use these citations to locate the original research article in one of the library's many databases. 


Search tip:  green tea AND review

or use the limiter in the database for reviews eg Medline, you can choose "review" from the Publication Type menu or simply type review into the search box

What is an empircal study?

In scientific journals, many of the articles you find will be about particular studies that a researcher or team has conducted. These articles are often labeled as "original research" and are empirical research, as they report on actual study results and contain or use data culled from actual observations or experiments. Empirical studies are also called primary or original research studies.

Reading a Scholarly Article

Helpful resources for learning how to read scholarly articles more effectively are:

  • Short video from Purdue University Libraries
  • Short PDF paper from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Tip: Read the abstract of the article. If you understand the abstract, you should be able to follow the article. If the abstract is difficult, the article will most likely be difficult to read. Some articles are dense and written for a high level of expertise meant for a very specific expert audience. Don't worry if you can't understand an article--skim your search results to find something more appropriate or ask a librarian for assistance. We're here to help!