Skip to Main Content


What is Research?

  • The organized quest for new knowledge and better understanding (Stedman's Medical Dictionary, 28th ed)
  • Investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws (Merriam-Webster, 2011)

Research can be categorized in many different ways:

What do all types of research have in common?

  • context: prior research on the topic, future directions
  • structured process: uses a scientific perspective to analyze a specific research question of interest and develop an approach for studying it
  • methodology: follows recognized procedures appropriate to the research area
  • objectivity: incorporates multiple perspectives yet remains unbiased


How Can I Identify a Research Article?

Examine the Title of the Article

Sometimes the authors indicate the study type or design in the title of the article.


Examine the Abstract and/or Full Text Article 

Abstract: Look for key phrases such as the following.

"This study examines..."
"The purpose of this study was to..."
"The study's findings support..."
"We investigated..."
"The results of this study confirm..."

Examine the article for a structured outline such as the IMRAD format: 

Introduction (Background, Objective)
Methodology (Methods)
Analysis  (Conclusion)

Examine the Indexing of an Article in a Library Database

Library bibliographic databases usually identify the publication type of a given article. Type of publication or subject headings can often include the type of research methodology used in the article. NOTE: there is a delay before an article is indexed in a databases, so this may not work with very recent articles.


Important note: Research articles are the primary means of developing new clinical knowledge, but vary in the level of detail given about the study. You may need to do your own evaluation.


Type of Reference Pros Cons Examples Evidence-based?

Easy to find

Can be very current

Quality variable MedlinePlus Child Development  

May lead to evidence-based sources of information in traditional literature it the references.
Expert Opinion

Quick and easy to use

Provides summaries

Can be expensive

Can be slow to update

The Lippincott Manual of
Nursing Practice

May summarize evidence and lead to evidence-based sources of information in the references.
Expert Opinion
Journal Articles        
Reviews (Narrative) Provide summaries of what is known on specific topics Methodology used in compiling the summaries may not be scientific or systematic

Headaches in children. 

May lead to evidence-based sources of information in the references.
Expert Opinion

Systematic Reviews

Provide systematically derived summaries of research studies on specific topics

Addresses a single research question

Requires some research to already have been done on the research question

Factors influencing completion of multi-dose vaccine schedules in adolescents: a systematic review.




Evidence-based, secondary research

References individual research articles


Provide systematically derived summaries of research studies on specific topics and applies statistical methods of analyses Requires considerable amounts of research to have already been done on the specific research question Prevalence of, and risk factors for, chronic idiopathic constipation in the community: systematic review and meta-analysis 


Leads to individual research articles

Research Reports/Articles

Describes original research studies and reports on results Can be time-consuming to read, interpret, and translate into clinical practice Double-blind, placebo-controlled antibiotic treatment study of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in children with chronic abdominal pain



This site is maintained by the librarians of Okanagan College Library.
If you wish to comment on an individual page, please contact that page's author.
If you have a question or comment about Okanagan College Library's LibGuides site as a whole, please contact the site administrator.