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Scientific Articles: Popular or Scholarly?

So, your professor has asked you to put together a works cited page with at least one scholarly source, and you're not quite sure what might count. Look below to find characteristics of popular, scholarly research, and scholarly review articles. 

Popular Articles

Let's start by looking at a popular article titled "Should I Give My Child Juice? Here's what the experts say."   The article, published in Time Magazine, might be credible, but not scholarly. Not sure why?  Notice the following factors:

For example, the author--Jamie Ducharme--is a journalist who generally covers health topics, not a scientist or researcher.

Similarly, while the articles published in Time Magazine are edited, it's a publication aimed at a general audience, and articles published there aren't peer-reviewed, which means that articles in Time Magazine are not evaluated by other experts in the field before publication. Learn more about peer-review here,

The author, Jamie Ducharme, interviews two pediatricians to answer the question in her article.  While pediatricians are experts in answering questions about children's health, the article does not cite any research studies or other information to support the conclusions presented. 

The illustration is used as a fun way to get the reader's attention.  

All of these factors--a journalist as an author, no or few citations, headlines and illustrations that are meant to catch the attention-- are traits of popular articles that are aimed at a general (non-expert) audience.


Scholarly Research Articles

Now, let's look at a peer reviewed article covering a similar topic: Consumption Patterns of Milk and 100% Juice in Relation to Diet Quality and Body Weight Among United States Children: Analyses of NHANES 2011-16 Data, published in Frontiers in Nutrition in August 2019.

Notice that the article title is much more detailed compared to the Time article: the article specifically looks at diet quality and obesity, and note the data that was used to answer the question (a national dietary study called NHANES). 

At the top of the article, you'll see the source information: the article was published in Frontiers in Nutrition, and to the right, you'll see the publication date and DOI, which is a unique number assigned to many scholarly articles (much like an ISBN).

Below the title information, you'll see that the authors' contact info is listed, here two Colleges of Medicine, and one Center for Public Health Nutrition. 

Similarly, right in the center of the page (or right under the publication info on the PDF version, you'll see an abstract: a summary of what the article is about. Often, this is a paragraph, but in this journal, each section of the article is summarized in the abstract.

When you read scholarly research articles in the sciences, you'll also see a common set of headings:

  • Abstract: a paragraph summary of the research question and findings
  • Introduction: the research question: what did the scientists set out to know? Also provides context to the study: what did we know about the topic? Who answered the most important questions so far? Will include many citations.
  • Method: the experiment design
  • Results: The data gathered by the experiment
  • Discussion: analyzes the results. What do we understand about the topic after the experiment has been conducted?
  • Conclusion: lists further questions to be studied
  • References or Works Cited: functions just as yours will. What research has been referenced throughout the paper?

An article that displays many of these characteristics is probably a scientific research article. 

Scholarly Review Articles

Scientific review articles aim to summarize current research on a topic, leading to a comparison of what is known about a topic as well as questions that remain to be addressed. Review articles will often summarize tens of articles, and so a long list of works cited is to be expected. Review articles also do not typically follow the structure of a research article. Often times, the word "review" will appear in the title.

Want to take a closer look? Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction is a review article and meta-analysis found on PubMedCentral, the government-sponsored free article database.  The authors analyzed 21 previously published studies in order to form conclusions about links between drinking sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes in adults. 

Science Research Help

Trying to find a scholarly article?  Here are some specialized guides to searching databases for scientific information:

Have questions about what research or review articles are, how to read research articles, or how to evaluate them? Take a look at the following guides for more information. 

Need some help citing what you find?  You can check out the following links for some guidance:

And, as always, you're welcome to contact me using the information on the right, or schedule a research appointment with a librarian whenever the library is open by clicking "Ask Us for Help" on the right of the page. 

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  • Last Updated: Oct 30, 2023 7:55 AM
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