Biology 303L: Ecology and Evolution

Original Research Articles

In the context of this guide, the phrase "original research article" is synonymous with "primary research article". In your science courses, your professors may also call these more simply "peer-reviewed articles", "scholarly articles", or "journal articles".


Definition: An original research article communicates the research question, methods, results, and conclusions of a research study or experiment conducted by the author(s). These articles present original research data or findings generated through the course of the authors' study and an analysis of that data or information.

Published in Journals: Origingal research articles are published in scientific journals, also called scholarly or academic journals. These can be published in print and/or online. Journals are serial publications, meaning they publish volumes and issues on a schedule continually over time, similar to a magazine but for a scholarly audience. You can access journals through many of the library's databases. A list of recommended databases to use to search for original articles on biology subjects can be found through this link, accessible from the database "subject" dropdown on the library homepage.

Peer Reviewed: Prior to being published, original research articles undergo a process called peer review in an effort to ensure that published articles are based on sound research that adheres to established standards in the discipline. This means that after an article is first submitted to a journal, it is reviewed by other scientists who are experts in the article's subject area. These individuals review the article and provide unbiased feedback about the soundness of the background information, research methods, analysis, conclusions, logic, and reasoning of any conclusions; the author needs to incorporate and/or respond to recommended edits before an article will be published. Though it isn't perfect, peer review is the best quality control mechanism that scholars currently have in place to validate the quality of published research.

Peer reviewed articles will often be published with "Received", "Accepted", and "Published" dates, which indicates the timeline of the peer review process.

Structure: Traditionally, an original research article follows a standardized structure known by the acronym IMRD, which stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, & Discussion. Further information about the IMRD structure is available on the Reading Original Research Articles tab of this guide.

Other types of journal articles

Note: Other types of articles may also be printed in journals. To help determine if an article is an original research article, look for the IMRD structure and ensure that the authors generated and analyzed new data through the course of their original study.


Review Articles (usually peer reviewed): Summarize and synthesize the current published literature on a certain topic. They do not involve original experiments or report new findings. The scope of a review article may be broad or narrow, depending on the publication record. Original research articles do incorporate literature review components, but a review article covers only review content.

Non Peer Reviewed Articles in Journals: Many journals publish the types of articles where peer review is not required. These differ by publication but may include research notes (brief reports of new research findings); responses to other articles; letters, commentaries, or opinion pieces; book reviews; and news. These articles are often more concise and will typically have a shorter reference list or no reference list at all. Many journals will indicate what genre these articles fall into on the article itself by using a label.

Why is Published Original Research Important?

Original research articles are the written manifestation of scientific experimentation and discovery. This is the process by which we "do" and communicate science!


Current information: Typical publication turnaround varies, but can be as quick as ~3 months.

Replicable: The studies published in original research articles contain enough methodological detail to be replicated so research can be verified (though this is a topic of recent debate).

Contains Raw Data: The raw original research data, along with information about experimental conditions, allows for reuse of results for your own research or analysis.

Shows Logic: Using the provided data and methods, you can evaluate the logic of the authors' conclusions.