Skip to Main Content

Research vs. Review Articles

Research Articles

Research articles (sometimes called primary articles) are a  type of scholarly, peer-reviewed articlesIn a research article, the author(s) performed original research by conducting an experiment or study.

Research articles follow a specific format and include specific sections that show how the research was designed, how the data was gathered, how it was analyzed, and what the conclusions are. Sometimes these sections may be labeled differently, but these basic elements are consistent:

  • Abstract: A brief, comprehensive summary of the article, written by the author(s) of the article.This abstract must be part of the article, not a summary in the database. Abstracts can appear in secondary source articles as well as primary source.
  • Introduction: This introduces the problem, tells you why it’s important, and outlines the background, purpose, and hypotheses the authors are trying to test. The introduction comes first, just after the abstract, and is usually not labeled. The Introduction will contain the following elements (though these are usually not labeled as such):
    • Literature Review: Summarizes and analyzes previous research related to the problem being investigated.
    • Hypothesis or Specific Question: Often (but not always) in quantitative and mixed methods studies, specific questions or hypothesis are stated just before the methodology.
  • ‚Äč Methods: Researchers indicate who or what was studied (source of data), the methods used to gather information (how the experiment or study was conducted), and a procedures summary. This section will contain a lot of charts, graphs, or tables and it is important not to skip over reading them.  
  • Results (findings): Summarizes the data and describes how it was analyzed. It should be sufficiently detailed to justify the conclusions. 
  • Discussion: The author(s) explain how the data fits their original hypothesis, state their conclusions, and look at the theoretical and practical implications of their research. This section is sometimes labeled "Interpretation" or "Analysis.
  • Conclusion: A summary statement that reflects the overall answers to the research questions. Implications and recommendations for future research are also included in this section. This section is not always labeled.

In short, research articles are articles where an original experiment or study was conducted and will typically contain the following section headings: Methods, Discussion, Conclusion. 


Example: Skin Cancer Prevention Behaviors Among Parents of Young Children

                Anatomy of a Research Article

Review Articles

Review articles (sometimes called secondary articles) summarize current or existing research on a topic.

Experiments or studies were not conducted by the author(s) and as a result they are typically not broken down into the types of sections research articles are broken down into (But don't assume).

The core of a review article is summarizing experiments or studies that other researchers performed.

Research articles are a great way to quickly learn about new research in a particular field. It is important to remember that review articles can be  peer reviewed articles. So just because you have a peer-reviewed article, don't assume that it must be a research article.

Often times, review article are labeled as such in the title or top of the article. 

In short, review articles are articles where new research in a field is summarized and an original experiment or study was not conducted. If an article does not have  methods, results, and discussion sections; it is a review article.


Example: Dissecting Kawasaki Disease: A State of the Art Review