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Library 101

Using the library at FNU

Scholarly Articles and the Peer-Review Process

When finding articles for use in your courses you want to make sure that those articles are scholarly.  Scholarly journal articles are written by an expert in the field and have undergone peer review.  Peer review refers to the process whereby the article is submitted to the publisher and is evaluated by other experts in the field prior to publication.  This process of peer review ensures that “published papers are honest and valid” (Sataloff, 2009, p. 848). The scientific community relies on this process to assist with scientific communication and quality control (Publishing Research Consortium, 2008).

How do I know if my article is from a peer-reviewed journal?

If you found the article in MEDLINE, it’s from a peer-reviewed journal. If you’re not sure you can google the title of the journal and find the homepage. Here, you should see an “About this Journal” link or something similar. Poke around this area and you’ll find out the editorial process of the publication and whether it is peer-reviewed or not. 

Check out this example. I googled "Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health" and went to their homepage. Here, I clicked on "About", then "Overview", and was taken to a page where they describe the journal's scope which includes the information that the journal is peer-reviewed. 


Video on Scholarly Articles

Watch this video that discusses the difference between scholarly and popular articles in more detail:

Research Articles

Most scholarly articles will be presenting research. Research is systematic inquiry to develop knowledge. In other words, we research in order to answer questions or solve problems (Polit & Beck, 2008). 

Most research articles will observe the following format:

  • Title
  • Author(s):  name of author(s) and institutional affiliations will be listed, sometimes with contact information
  • Abstract: short summary of the article
  • Introduction: states the reason for the research; may include a literature review and/or discussion of previous research
  • Methodology: explains how the research was conducted, including description of the research population or study sample, methods used to gather information or data, and means used for measuring or analysis
  • Results: gives results of the study, often using charts, tables, or other graphics to present findings
  • Discussion: analyzes the findings and explains the significance of the research and possible implications; may suggest applications or future projects
  • References: a bibliography or list of works cited in the article

For an interactive explanation of some of these elements, see Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from the North Carolina State University Libraries. You can also download this information as a handout

Different Types of Research

There are a few distinctions that you should be aware of when dealing with research articles. Let's look at the differences between primary and secondary research articles.
In addition to primary and secondary research articles, we also need to be aware of the difference in research methods. Quantitative research relies on a statistical analysis of collected numbers. Whereas qualitative research focuses on the experiences of research subjects in their own words.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative


  • Quantitative research presents “numeric information that results from some type of formal measurement and that is analyzed with statistical procedures” (Polit & Beck, 2008, p. 16).
  • Qualitative research presents the “collection and analysis of subjective, narrative materials using flexible procedures” (Polit & Beck, 2008, p. 25).

Research Examples

Let's look at some examples of qualitative and quantitative research articles.

Below is an abstract for an article describing a qualitative study:

View this article record in EBSCOhost:

Notice that the title and abstract tell us that the study is about experiences of mothers and that they conducted interviews. This type of study is consistent with our definition of qualitative research as analysis of narrative materials. Notice also that "Qualitative Studies" is one of the subject headings.

Now let's look at a quantitative study:

View this article record in EBSCOhost:

Remember that the definition of quantitative research stated that it involved some sort of formal measurement. The abstract of this article tells us that the Premature Infant Pain Profile was used in the study. The definition also noted that information in quantitative research is analyzed with statistical procedures. The abstract uses statistical terminology such as t-test, chi-square, and Wilcoxen test. These are all types of statistical data analysis.

You may also encounter another type of article called a review article. This type of article does not present original research; rather it presents other articles that cover the topic. A review article will give a good overview of a topic, and point you to other key articles, but it does not put forward new research (University of Texas Libraries, 2009).


Polit, D. F. & Beck, C. T. (2008). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice (8th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Publishing Research Consortium. (2008). Peer review in scholarly journals: Perspective of the scholarly community--an international study. Mark Ware Consulting, Ltd.

Sataloff, R.T. (2009). Peer review: Universal, but valid? ENT: Ear, Nose, & Throat Journal, 88(4), 848-851.

University of Texas Libraries. (2009). What’s a “review article?”