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Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources describe different types of research. Read about some of the most common types of scholarly sources.

Empirical studies

Empirical studies describe original research completed by the author(s). This could be a new study or a new analysis of existing data. Look for sections of the article that describe methods, results, and an analysis or discussion of the results.

Researchers on a boat

Example article: Association between arsenic exposure from drinking water and longitudinal change in blood pressure…

Case studies

Case studies report on information gathered while working with a specific individual or group. Case studies may describe a little-known or common condition or problem, or reveal the need for more research in that area.

Research lab

Example article: Introducing Twitter as an assessed component of the undergraduate nursing curriculum: Case study


Meta-analyses are quantitative, statistical analyses of the results of two or more studies on the same topic or hypothesis. By combining the results of multiple studies, the author(s) of the meta-analysis hope to provide greater understanding of the topic.

Calculator with statistics book

Example article: Gender differences in marital satisfaction: A meta-analysis

Theoretical articles

Theoretical articles may present a new theory for understanding a field or area of knowledge, or they may refine or critique an existing theory. These articles may refer to empirical research, but only in order to advance or show application of the theory.

Mathematical theory

Example article: Quantum cognition: A new theoretical approach to psychology

Literature reviews

Literature reviews summarize and analyze previously published research on a given topic, but do not contain original research themselves. They are useful in helping to understand a topic and the research that has already been done in that area. References included in the literature review can help you to find empirical research articles on your topic.

Stack of journals

Example article: Lean management, supply chain management and sustainability: A literature review

Caution! Other scholarly communication

Scholarly journals often publish other types of writing relating to communication between members of the field. These articles are usually short in length and are considered not scholarly. Examples of this type of writing include book reviews, letters to the editor, comments on previously published articles, and obituaries.

Man writing a letter

Example article: Nineteenth-Century Irish Sculpture: Native Genius Reaffirmed, by Paula Murphy (Book review)