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McNair Scholars: Article Definitions

Primary (Scholarly) vs. Secondary (Popular)


          PRIMARY articles present the original work or experimental results of that article’s author(s). All research articles are therefore primary articles, but not all primary articles are "research." If an article comments on or responds to the work of other authors, but still contains substantial original content or experimental research, it is generally considered to be primary.

          SECONDARY articles summarize the work, views, or experimental research of other authors or comment on previously published research.


Research vs. Review

          RESEARCH articles report on the results of a single study or experiment; the author(s) of the article is/are the person(s) who conducted the study or experiment.

          Research articles always have abstracts attached, and often contain standardized headings within the text, e.g. "METHOD,“ "DATA," "RESULTS," "CONCLUSION.”

          REVIEW articles summarize the results of several studies or experiments, often attempting to identify trends or draw broader conclusions; the article’s author(s) is/are not the author(s) of most of the literature reviewed.

Peer-reviewed vs. Non Peer-reviewed

          also known as REFEREED vs. NON-REFEREED

          PEER-REVIEWED  articles are those that have been submitted by a journal’s editors to selected scholars or "peers" in the academic field(s) represented by the article’s topic. These experts may or may not be otherwise affiliated with the journal.

          Based in part on the evaluations returned, the editors then determine which articles will be published.

          NON-PEER-REVIEWED articles are those that reach publication based entirely on the opinions or judgment of a journal’s editors. Many journals, and all magazines, are not peer-reviewed.

          To determine if a journal contains peer-reviewed articles, consult the instructions for contributors usually found at the beginning or end of each issue, or check the journal title in Ulrichsweb. 

        A valuable source for tracking items that are published on a regular basis, such as consumer and trade magazines, scholarly journals, newsletters, newspapers, and monographic series and electronic publication. Some periodical index databases have special notations or search limit features for peer-reviewed journals.