What Is The Difference Between A Scholarly Research Article And A Review Article?

If you are new in the academic world, you may find the types of academic articles dizziying. The more common ones include research articles, and also review articles. How are they similar and different from each other? Distinguishing between research and review articles is crucial. 

In this post, let’s explore what research and review articles are, and how are they different.

Research Article vs. Review Article

AspectResearch ArticleReview Article
DefinitionReports new research and findings.Summarises existing research studies.
StructureContains sections like introduction, methods, results, and discussion.Includes a summary, topic introduction, and a discussion synthesising research.
ContentFilled with new data and findings.Compiles and analyses existing data; no new research findings.
RoleIntroduces fresh research and insights to academia.Offers a comprehensive view of a topic based on existing research.
ImpactAdvances knowledge and prompts further research.Clarifies and summarises research, guiding future studies.
Example Title“Investigating Necrotic Enteritis in 15 Californian Broiler Chicken Farms.”“Necrotic Enteritis in Broiler Chickens – What We Know So Far.”

What Is A Research Article? 

A research article serves as the cornerstone of the academic and scientific community, standing as a detailed report on original findings.

Unlike review articles which synthesise existing literature to provide an overview, research articles present primary research with fresh data, exploring uncharted territories within a specific field.

The devil is in the details when it comes to these scholarly works. Original studies not only pose a research question but delve into methodologies that range from complex experimental designs to detailed observations.

Scholarly articles are often peer-reviewed, meaning that other experts in the field scrutinise the work before publication to ensure its validity and contribution to the field.

The empirical nature of research articles means that the raw data and analysis methods are laid bare for replication—a fundamental tenet of scientific inquiry. These papers typically include:

  • Introduction: Introduces the problem
  • Methodology: The means by which the study was conducted
  • Results: Findings from the study
  • Discussion: Connects the findings to the bigger picture, highlighting implications and potential for future research.

While some journals accept such articles readily, the journey of a paper from research question to published research is fraught with meticulous data collection and rigorous peer evaluation.

For the keen observer, it’s the systematic reviews and meta-analyses that truly offer a glimpse into the current state of understanding, weaving through the tapestry of existing knowledge to pinpoint gaps and suggest paths forward.

It’s this level of detail—often hidden in plain sight in methods and results—that serves as a rich vein of information for those looking to conduct systematic reviews or embark on a similar empirical journey.

Whether it’s a clinical case study or a large-scale trial, the research article is an essential treasure in the scholarly literature, serving as a building block for academic writing and future exploration.

What Is A Review Article?

A review article stands out in the scholarly world as a synthesis of existing research, providing a critical and comprehensive analysis of a particular topic.

Unlike original research articles that report new empirical findings, review articles serve as a bridge connecting a myriad of studies, offering an overview that discerns patterns, strengths, and gaps within published work.

Peer-reviewed and systematically organised, these articles are essential for scholars who wish to familiarise themselves with the current state of knowledge on a given subject without having to delve into each individual research paper.

Insiders know that the crafting of a review article is an art in itself. Authors meticulously collect and analyse data from various sources, often employing methods like meta-analysis or systematic review searches to compare and combine findings.

They don’t just summarise existing literature; they synthesise it, providing new insights or revealing unexplored areas that could benefit from future research. It’s a rigorous process, often involving the intricate task of:

  • Comparing clinical trials,
  • Conducting extensive literature reviews, or even
  • Generating new frameworks for understanding complex academic concepts.

The value of a well-conducted review is immense. Journals publishing these articles often see them as keystones, providing a foundation upon which other researchers can build.

Such reviews can point to the need for new primary research, challenge existing paradigms, or even sometimes shift the direction of scholarly inquiry.

For the discerning academic, a review article is not just a summary—it’s a roadmap for what comes next in the quest for knowledge.

How Are Review And Research Articles Different?

In the scholarly cosmos, the distinction between a research article and a review article is fundamental, yet it’s a source of perplexity for budding academics. Diving into the anatomy of these articles reveals their distinct roles in academia.

Original Research vs Synthesised Knowledge

A research article is an original study, presenting novel findings. It follows a stringent structure: an abstract to summarize the study, an introduction to set the stage, followed by methods, results, and a discussion that connects the findings to broader implications.

A review article instead synthesises the information from one or many of these original studies, into an article to allow easier reading. Some also offer additional insights for the readers. 

Anatomy & Structure

An original research article is usually brimming with original data, charts, and perhaps phrases like “we investigated” or “the study found,” signifying fresh empirical insights. At the most basic, a research article usually contains sections such as:

  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Future research ideas

A review article usually begins with an abstract summarising the scope and findings of the review. The main body is divided into sections that often include:

  • An introduction to the topic
  • A discussion segment that synthesises and analyses the compiled research
  • Subtopics that further categorise the research by themes or methodologies. 

Finally, it concludes with a summary or conclusion that reflects on the current state of research, identifies gaps, and may suggest directions for future studies, accompanied by a thorough list of references.


A research article is written to share new findings and original data on a particular research. This means the information are fresh, and new to the scientific community.

An example title of a research article may be “Investigating Necrotic Enteritis in 15 Californian Broiler Chicken Farms.”

A review article is more akin to an academic digest, offering a synthesis of existing research on a topic. It typically lacks the methodology and results sections found in research papers.

The main goal is to give a panoramic view of the existing literature, gaps, and sometimes, a meta-analysis combining findings from various studies to distill a more substantial conclusion.

An example of a review article about Necrotic Enteritis may be something like this: “Necrotic Enteritis in Broiler Chickens – What We Know So Far.” 

Impact and Use in Academia

Research articles are the primary sources, documenting original work from scientists, as they conduct researches in their fields.

Original research articles are crucial in academia as they contribute new knowledge, support evidence-based advancements, and form the foundation for subsequent scholarly inquiry.

Research articles: 

  • Provide detailed methodology and results for peer scrutiny
  • Foster academic dialogue,
  • Often the preferred source for cutting-edge information in a given field, and
  • Directly impacting teaching, policy-making, and further research.

Review articles are summaries that distill wisdom from multiple sources to shed light on the current state of knowledge, often guiding future research.

They are usually seen as secondary sources, containing insights that research articles might not individually convey.

Journals prize them for their ability to provide a systematic overview, and while they may not require the substantial funding necessary for conducting original research, their scholarly impact is substantial.

Wrapping Up

In the academic landscape, research articles and review articles form the backbone of knowledge dissemination and scholarly progress.

Research articles introduce novel insights, pushing the boundaries of understanding, while review articles offer a synthesis of existing findings, guiding future studies.

Both are essential: one for its fresh empirical contributions, the other for its comprehensive overviews and analytical prowess.

Together, they underpin the scientific method, spur academic debate, and serve as the keystones of educational advancement and informed decision-making in the quest for enlightenment and innovation.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.