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Science 311

Scholarly vs. Popular

You will be asked to find both primary studies and review articles from scholarly (peer-reviewed) journals. A reminder that scholarly journals are ones where scientists publish their research to be read by other scientists. A popular magazine like National Geographic or Scientific American is written to educate and inform a non-specialist audience, and would not be acceptable to include in your paper. If you would like to learn more about peer review, please see the video below.

Primary vs. Review Articles

Peer-reviewed scientific journals contain two main types of research articles: primary studies, and literature reviews. Both types of research are usually peer reviewed, meaning that the articles have been reviewed by other experts in the field before being published.

Primary studies are reports on the results of an original experiment or study, usually undertaken to test a hypothesis or answer a specific question. Usually, researchers gather the data themselves, interpret them, and write up the results. In this course, you are engaging in a sort of primary study, as you will be required to formulate a hypothesis, collect data, analyze it, and write up your results. 

Review articles summarize the existing literature on a topic or question. The authors do not collect any new data. Literature reviews provide useful summaries of what is known about a topic, what is still unknown, areas of disagreement among experts, and directions for future research. They are also a great overview for students and researchers who may be new to a topic. When you're beginning your search for background literature on a project, try to find a recent review paper to give you the lay of the land before you start looking at primary studies.