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CHSC 6396: Advanced Research Methods

Finding Articles

You can't just throw your thesis into a database-they cannot parse whole sentences properly.

If you want to know if family income affects children's school attendance in the southwestern United States, you need to break that up.

Look at your results, what terms are popping up?  You might not have phrased it like that, but maybe that is what it is called in the literature.

If there's a thesaurus tool available, use it! PsycINFO's thesaurus tool is invaluable! Also be sure to look at an article's subject terms or author supplied keywords. 

What is a Peer Reviewed Article?

Peer review is a process that many, but not all, journals use. Article manuscripts submitted to peer-reviewed journals are not automatically accepted and published.

In peer review, a panel of experts in the given field review the manuscript to determine aspects such as the quality of research, appropriateness for the journal, and relevance to the field. One of three decisions is made: accept, reject, or revise based on commentary from reviewers.

The process of peer review is thought to help ensure that high quality articles appear in journals.

Another term for peer-reviewed is refereed. Peer-reviewed journals may also be called scholarly.

Remember that magazines, Internet sources, and books are not the same as peer-reviewed journals.

Empirical Articles

In psychology, articles that report on original/new research studies may be referred to as primary sources or empirical.

  • Empirical articles are usually divided into sections.
    • Common sections in a research/empirical article include introduction, literature review, methods/process, data, results, discussion, conclusion / suggestions for further study, and references.
    • If the article is not divided into sections, it does not automatically mean it is not an empirical article.
    • You cannot assume that an article is empirical just because it is divided into sections.
  • In the methods section [which may be called something similar], or otherwise usually toward the beginning or middle of the article [if it does not have sections]: The authors will describe how they actively conducted new or original research -- such as an experiment or survey. Examples of what would likely be explained: How they identified participants, that they received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, control vs. experimental groups, and so forth about their research.

Review Articles

Articles that either interpret or analyze empirical articles are considered review articles. Such articles are often referred to as secondary sources or secondary research.

  • Some types of review articles:
    • An entire article that is purely a literature review [usually a review of select other articles considered to be the best support for a research question/topic]
    • Systematic review
    • Meta-analysis / meta-analyses
    • Meta-synthesis / meta-syntheses
    • Integrative review
      • If an article is a review article, it is likely [but not always] to have the words literature review, systematic review, integrative review, meta-analysis, meta-synthesis, or other mention of review in the title.
      • The main indicator of a review article is if authors are just interpreting, analyzing, and/or comparing the results of empirical articles. So, in comparison to an empirical article, the authors of a review article do not describe an experiment or survey they conducted.

  • The confusing part of review articles is that they may also be divided into sections, just like an original research article.
    • The sections may include introduction, findings, and yes, even methods and results/findings.
      • If there is a methods section, it will usually describe how the authors searched for other articles [which databases they searched, what search terms they used] and decided the criteria for articles to include and exclude as part of their review. Again, they will not be describing how they conducted new or original research, such as an experiment or survey.
      • If there is a results section, it will usually report the findings of the authors' interpretation, analyzing, and/or comparison of the results of other research/research articles. You cannot assume that an article is an empirical article just because it is divided into sections.
        • In a literature review, for example, the authors' might point out what they believe to be the most pertinent/applicable research articles.

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