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NR 265: Evidence Based Professional Nursing Practice

How to Read Research Articles

A primary research article reports on a study conducted by the authors. It is almost always published in a peer-reviewed journal. This type of article:

  • Asks a research question or states a hypothesis
  • Identifies a research population
  • Describes a specific research method
  • Tests or measures something
  • Includes a section called "method" or "methodology." This may only appear in the article, not the abstract.
  • Includes a section called "results."

Words to look for as clues include: analysis, study, investigation, examination, experiment, numbers of people or objects analyzed, content analysis, or surveys.

To contrast, the following are NOT primary research articles (they are secondary sources):

  • Literature reviews*
  • Meta-Analyses/Review articles* (These are studies that arrive at conclusions based on research from many other studies.)
  • Editorials
  • Letters
  • Chapters in books
  • Encyclopedia articles
  • Speeches and interviews

* While you cannot use literature reviews as key articles to answer your PICO(T) question, they can be very helpful. Look at the list of references to find great articles about your topic!

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

Types of Questions asked in Studies

Types of Studies