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Finding Original (or "Scientific") Research Articles

Learn how to recognize an original research article and where to find one.

photo of scientists, research in a science labFinding Original (or "Scientific") Research Articles

This guide will help you understand...

  • the definition of an original research article
  • where to look for an original research article
  • how to make sure you've found one
  • how to read and understand original research articles
  • why these kinds of articles are important

If you have any questions, please ask a librarian! Our contact info -- chat, email, phone, or in-person -- is listed on the "Get Help" tab of this guide.

Image source: "Lab Laboratory Research Scientific Science" by felixioncool is licensed under the CC0 license (public domain)

Definitions & Descriptions

Original Research Articles Are Primary Sources

An "original" research article is a detailed account of research activity written by the scientists who did the research--not by someone else who is reporting on the research; it is a primary resource. Some instructors may refer to these as "scientific research" articles or as "empirical" research.

Defining "Empirical" Research

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines empirical as: "originating in or based on observation or experience research; capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment."

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Take a look at this very helpful web page created by librarians at NCSU (North Carolina State University).

Common Characteristics of Most Original Research Articles

Most research articles have common elements and organization, including the following:

  • Written by multiple authors (usually three or more)
  • Authors are always identified and their credentials displayed
  • Long, technical article titles with specialized terminology
  • Lengthy--a minimum of six pages, often twenty or more
  • Divided into sections
    • Introduction that includes the problem, question(s), and research objectives
    • Literature review: a description of what other scholars have written about the problem
    • Methods or Approach
    • Results
    • Discussion
    • References
  • Article abstracts will include words such as:
    • Methods, Study, Results
    • Randomized, Double blind, Placebo-controlled
  • Article text will describe and analyze the problem, experiment or study, with technical language or jargon understood by others in that field
  • Chart, graphs, and/or tables often included
  • Lengthy references list
  • Published in professional or scholarly journals

closeup of citations in a research articleExample References

Here's What a Citation Might Look Like

Here are examples of how some research article citations look like when included in library databases or in bibliographies. Note the very detailed titles and multiple authors. 

  • A Pilot Study of Gene/Gene and Gene/Environment Interactions in Alzheimer Disease.By: Ghebranious, Nader; Mukesh, Bickol; Giampietro, Philip F.; Gluhch, Ingrid; Michel, Susan F.; Waring, Stephen C.; McCarty, Catherine A., Clinical Medicine & Research, Mar2011, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p17-25, 9p, 5 Charts; 
  • Developmental Trajectories of Marital Happiness in Continuously Married Individuals: A Group-Based Modeling Approach. By: Anderson, Jared R., Van Ryzin, Mark J., Doherty, William J., Journal of Family Psychology, 08933200, Oct2010, Vol. 24, Issue 5
  • Occurrence of genetically modified oilseed rape seeds in the harvest of subsequent conventional oilseed rape over timeEuropean Journal of Agronomy, Volume 27, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 115-122. A. Messéan, C. Sausse, J. Gasquez, H. Darmency

(Also, please note that the citations above are NOT cited in either APA or MLA style.)

Image source: “Scientific citations” by Finn Årup Nielsen is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license

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