6 Article types that journals publish: A guide for early career researchers
- Scholarly journals publish content in different formats, not just original research articles.
- Some forms of scholarly literature require original research (primary literature) and some are based on other published work (secondary literature).
- Consider options like review articles or perspective/opinion pieces to start off your publication journey.
The field of research requires persistence and most researchers devote many a sleepless night towards conducting research and documenting results. In the competitive world of academia, you are expected to start publishing early in your career, and many early-career researchers are faced with the looming worry of how to publish a journal article. Although original research sometimes takes years to complete, it does not mean you cannot have any publications to your credit till the time you complete your research.
There are different types of scholarly literature, some of which require original research (categorized as primary literature) and some that are based on other published work (secondary literature). It is important to have a clear idea about the different types of articles that you can publish in journals. This will help you understand the ways in which you can disseminate your work and identify what kind of article would be suitable for your study.
The types of publications are different in different fields. For instance, a clinical trial is possible only in the field of medicine, while an empirical study is more common in the field of social sciences. It is important to remember that not all journals publish every kind of article. Therefore, most journal publishers provide prospective authors with accurate and specific guidelines for the different articles they publish. Specifications about the types of articles published can be found under the guidelines to authors section on a journal’s website. If you have a target journal in mind, you should check whether it publishes the kind of manuscript you are planning to write.
Some of the possible types of scientific publications are:
1. Original research: These are detailed studies reporting original research and are classified as primary literature. They include hypothesis, background study, methods, results, interpretation of findings, and a discussion of possible implications. Original research articles are long, with the word limit ranging from 3000 to 6000,2,3 and can even go up to 12,000 words for some journals.1 These require a significant investment of time.
2. Review article: Review articles provide a critical and constructive analysis of existing published literature in a field, through summary, analysis, and comparison, often identifying specific gaps or problems and providing recommendations for future research.1,6 These are considered as secondary literature since they generally do not present new data from the author's experimental work. Review articles can be of three types, broadly speaking: literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Review articles can be of varying lengths depending upon the journal and subject area. For narrative reviews or literature reviews, the length could range anywhere between 8000 to 40,0006 words while systematic reviews are usually less than 10,000 words long.6 However, some journals also publish shorter reviews, around 3000-5000 words long.1-3
3. Clinical case study: Clinical case studies present the details of real patient cases from medical or clinical practice. The cases presented are usually those that contribute significantly to the existing knowledge on the field. The study is expected to discuss the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease.1,5 These are considered primary literature and usually have a word count similar to that of an original article. Clinical case studies require a lot of practical experience and may not be a suitable publication format for early career researchers.5
4. Clinical trial: Once again, specific to the field of medicine, clinical trials describe the methodology, implementation, and results of controlled studies, usually undertaken with large patient groups.1,5 Clinical trial articles are also long, usually of about the same length as an original research article. Clinical trials also require practical work experience, as well as, high standards of ethics and reliability.5 So this format is more useful for experienced researchers.
5. Perspective, opinion, and commentary: Perspective pieces are scholarly reviews of fundamental concepts or prevalent ideas in a field. These are usually essays that present a personal point of view critiquing widespread notions pertaining to a field.1-3 A perspective piece can be a review of a single concept or a few related concepts. These are considered as secondary literature and are usually short articles, around 2000 words.2
Opinion articles present the author’s viewpoint on the interpretation, analysis, or methods used in a particular study. It allows the author to comment on the strength and weakness of a theory or hypothesis. Opinion articles are usually based on constructive criticism and should be backed by evidence.1 Such articles promote discussion on current issues concerning science. These are also relatively short articles.
Commentaries are short articles usually around 1000-1,500 words long that draw attention to or present a criticism of a previously published article, book, or report, explaining why it interested them and how it might be illuminating for readers.
6. Book review: Book reviews are published in most academic journals. The aim of a book review is to provide insight and opinion on recently published scholarly books. Book reviews are also relatively short articles and less time-consuming. Book reviews are a good publication option for early
-career researchers as it allows the researcher to stay abreast of new literature in the field, while at the same time, adding to his publication list.5
You might find this course helpful: Research writing: an overview
- A young researcher's guide to writing an original research article
- A young researcher's guide to writing a literature review
- A young researcher's guide to a systematic review
- A young researcher's guide to writing a clinical case report
- A young researcher's guide to a clinical trial
- A young researcher's guide to perspective, commentary, and opinion articles
- What is the difference between a research paper and a review paper?
- Which is easier to publish - an original research article or a review article?
1. Frontiers in group. Frontiers in Neuroscience [Accessed Feb 18, 2015] Available from http://www.frontiersin.org/Neuroscience/articletype
2. Sage Publications. Manuscript Submission Guidelines [Accessed Feb 18, 2015] Available from http://www.uk.sagepub.com/msg/hsr.htm#ARTICLETYPES
3. Nature Publications. Author Resources [Accessed Feb 18, 2015] Avaialable from http://www.nature.com/authors/author_resources/article_types.html
4. AcademyHealth. Writing Articles for Peer-review Publications: A Quick Reference Guide [Accessed Feb 19, 2015] Available from http://www.academyhealth.org/files/HIT/writingguide.pdf
5. University of Colorado Libraries. Publish, Not Perish: The Art & Craft of Publishing in Scholarly Journals, Module 1, Overview of Scholarly Publishing [Accessed Feb 18, 2015] Available from https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=294081
6. Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center. Guidelines for writing a review article. [Accessed Feb 19, 2015] Available fromhttp://ueberfachliche-kompetenzen.ethz.ch/dopraedi/pdfs/Mayer/guidelines_review_article.pdf
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