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Writing 101 (Toconis): Empirical & Review Articles

Empirical Articles

Empirical articles are based on an experiment or study.  The authors will report the purpose of the study, the research methodology, and results. This is a familiar structure for empirical articles (IMRAD):

  • introduction
  • methods
  • results
  • discussion

In describing the purpose of their study, authors will present a mini literature review to discuss how previous research has led up to their original research project.

Also called:

  • primary research article/source
  • primary literature article
  • original research article

Example: The prevalence of sleep disorders in college students: Impact on academic performance

Limiting to Empirical Articles

In PsycINFO, use the Methodology limiter to narrow to empirical study (original research).

You may also want to try clinical case study, clinical trial, or treatment outcome depending on your topic.

Similarities & Differences

Both empirical articles & literature reviews are:

  • published in journals
  • often peer-reviewed
  • written by experts in the field

They are different in one important way:

Empirical articles report the findings of a research study, while review articles assess the findings of a variety of studies on a topic.

Types of Scholarly Articles

VCU Libraries (3:25)

Review Articles

Review articles summarize or synthesize content from earlier published research and are useful for surveying the literature on a specific research area. Review articles can lead you to empirical articles.

There are several types.

  • narrative: a literature review that describes and discusses the state of the science of a specific topic or theme.
  • systematic: a comprehensive review of all relevant studies on a particular topic/question. The systematic review is created by following an explicit methodology for identifying/selecting the studies to include and evaluating their results.
  • meta-analysis: the statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies. This is usually, but not always, presented with a systematic review.

Example: Let's talk about sleep: a systematic review of psychological interventions to improve sleep in college students

Limiting to Lit Reviews

In PsycINFO, use the Methodology limiter to narrow to literature review.

You may also want to try systematic review or meta analysis.

Additional Article Types

research letter is a shorter version of a full original research article.  Be aware that this is not the same as a letter to an editor in an academic journal.

Letters are often written in response to articles, editorials, and other materials. They do not go through a peer-review process, but can give you insight into the scholarly conversation around a topic. They are not included in all databases, but you may find them included in some of them.

Research Notes are short articles.  They may be called short reports, technical notes, case reports etc.  Be aware that some limiters in databases may also include correspondence in a Notes limiter.