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Writing 116 (Memmott): Types of Articles


Scholarly journals contain more than one type of article. In one issue of a journal, you may find original research articles, review articles, letters to the editor, reviews of books and other materials, and more. When you are browsing articles in databases, online, or in paper journals, keep the following questions in mind:

  • What is this piece's purpose?
  • Is this an original research article?
  • Does this article summarize the original research of others?
  • Why is this material included in the journal?

Journal example: Nature

Scholarly Articles - Key Article Types

scholarly articles

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, 3:15

  1. What do peer reviewers do?  How are they similar to or different from editors?
  2. Who are the primary customers of scholarly journals?
  3. Do databases only include peer-reviewed articles?  How do you know?

Research Note

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.

Example: "Are mitochondria inherited paternally in Ascaris?" (Research note)

Example: "Bilateral Cleft-Lip and Palate Associated with Agenesis of the Hand and Distal Forearm"

Original Research Article Example

Original research 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 original research articles > IMRAD: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Example: The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Electively Scheduled Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Patients in the United States

Example: Factors Associated with Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD Symptomatology During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Clinical Implications for U.S. Young Adult Mental Health

Example: The 2009 Pandemic H1N1 Influenza Vaccination in France: Who Accepted to Receive the Vaccine and Why?

Review Article Example

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 original research articles.

Example: Cancer and COVID-19: Unmasking their ties

Example: What dentists need to know about COVID-19

Example: Immune responses in COVID-19 and potential vaccines: Lessons learned from SARS and MERS epidemic

Research Letter

A 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.

See a description from the JAMA Network, Geophysical Research Letters, Environmental Research Letters, FEBS (Federation of European Biochemical Societies) Letters (limits to 4,000 words), and American Journal of Epidemiology (limits to 1,000 words).

Example: "Tourette syndrome, obsessive compulsive behavior, and dysmorphic features ...." Click on Elsevier ScienceDirect on UC-eLinks window.

Example:  "Biochemical Refinement Before Genetics: Chance Utility"


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.

Example: Response to "Letter to the editor: The overlap between Alexithymia and Asperger's syndrome", Fitzgerald and Bellgrove, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(4) (Letter)


Obituaries are included in many journals. Related information includes listings of new jobs, projects, etc. Since fields are scholarly communities, this can allow for them to acknowledge the passages in their members' lives.

Note: You can narrow down search results in Web of Science by using the "Document Type" filter.

Example: John Walley Littlefield Obituary