Thursday, 16 July 2015

Post 56: Garrett Richard's Co-Post on Different Types of Journal Articles

Not too long ago, I read journal articles fairly indiscriminately, and didn't pay too much attention to whether or not they were argumentative theory papers or delivering empirical research results or meta-analyses. Now, however, that distinction has become a lot more important as I'm trying to wrestle with my findings chapter and finding the best way to represent the important information that's emerged from my interviews. I will also add, however, that this distinction is important to keep in mind for whatever your current project is. As I mentioned in the previous post, about the importance of reading other theses, it can be incredibly useful and rewarding to have a guidepost or a model in mind for what the end product should be.

A stormy summer evening sunset! Fantastic energy in the clouds!
With journal articles that can be even more important, because different journals have different publishing styles, content guidelines, etc., that you need to know about if you're going to pitch your own article there. And from the other perspective, you should be doing some reading to find articles that you like/find inspiring or interesting that help you to set your aim nice and high.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd revisit an email that one of my favourite colleagues Garrett Richards wrote to me not long ago, answering my question about what different kinds of journal articles there are. This is his take on that. The content of that email is reproduced below, and I've added my own comments underneath. And, pictures throughout, as usual, are mine.

From Garrett:

Here are some examples of the different types of journal articles. They're not all from the same field, but hopefully you will find the subject matter of some of them interesting (of course, it's more important to pay attention to the basic structure, in terms of understanding the different types).

Type 1: Literature Review (e.g. Chambers 2003)This type simply goes over the literature in some field. The author will do categorization and framing, and point to emerging themes and areas for further work, but they generally aren't trying to make any argumentative points broader than that (just like a lit review in a class paper or thesis). Of course, most articles of other types have at least a small section that is literature review, but this kind is wholly a review. Uncommon.

Type 2: Argumentative (e.g. Sarewitz and Pielke Jr 2007)

This type will draw upon literature throughout, but it isn't 'reviewing' the literature as much as it is 'using' the literature to make some argument (e.g. maybe it's proposing a new theoretical framework based on previous work or gaps in that work). It will often draw on a case example (or several) to make the argument, but it won't have a methods section (probably the method used is a simple document review that isn't systematic enough to warrant a section describing it, just like we don't describe the process we go through to do a literature review). A lot like an essay. Common.

Great lunch spot in front of the building! 
Type 3: Supplemented (e.g. Hamann and Acutt 2003)
This type is basically an argumentative article, but the case example it uses to make its point is more methodologically rigorous (although sometimes it can be hard to tell - footnote 1 in this article makes it clear that interviews were used for data collection, but the actual text makes no mention of any methods, quotations, or interviewees). While a standard journal article (Type 4) will be primarily about the collected data, and secondarily about literature/argument, this kind is the other way around. A combination of types 2 and 4. I might have been able to find a better example (this one is close to being a type 2 with its invisible methods) but they are uncommon.

Type 4: Standard Original Research Article (e.g. Rietig 2014)
This type follows the standard intro-review/background-methods-results-discussion format, with the results and discussion getting more emphasis than the review/background. Almost certainly has a 'methods' section. Emphasis on methods can vary (some articles, unlike this one, flag their methods in the title and really play up the research itself over the implications/argument even more). Common.

Of course, not everything falls neatly into these types (and sometimes 
it's really hard to tell what the methods were or whether there were any 'methods' at all for a type 2 or 3). I think there are some articles that, instead of separating the literature/argument and the example(s) or case(s), they interweave them throughout the whole paper (and that could happen for type 2, 3, or 4). I've also seen lit review articles that have a very systematic methodology (e.g. meta-analysis/scientometrics), so those could count as type 1 or 4. I prefer having a certain structure/formula to aim for when I write an article/paper, but it seems like pretty much any construction will be acceptable somewhere, so whatever way you think best communicates your findings/ideas is probably the way to go.

Lovely Victoria evening sunset from my apartment. 
I think these 4 are very useful types of journal articles for graduate students to know about. editageInsights classifies 6 different types as: original research, review article, clinical case study, clinical trial, perspective, opinion, and commentary, and the book review, but this broadens the categorization to different fields. 

Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette University breaks down different categories and generalizations here, too, though I'm mostly interested in the social sciences. Their overview provides quick notes on different types of research, characteristics of research, they provide some recommended books on research, and highlight different types of scholarly articles. 

The four above are at least a pretty good start. Due to copyright, I'm unable to post the full articles here, but I've provided the full Bibliographic information below, so you can hunt down the articles Garrett mentioned yourself. Where possible, links are also provided above, but again, you need to get around the paywall, though you can still read the abstracts! 


Chambers, S. (2003). Deliberative democratic theory. Annual Review of Political Science 6: 307-326. doi: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.6.121901.085538

Hamann, R., & Acutt, N. (2010). How should civil society (and the government) respond to 'corporate social responsibility'? A critique of business motivations and the potential for partnerships. Development Southern Africa 20(2): 255-270. doi: 10.1080/03768350302956

Rietig, K. (2014). 'Neutral' experts? How input of scientific expertise matters in international environmental negotiations. Policy Science 47: 141-160. doi: 10.1007/s11077-013-9188-8. 

Sarewitz, D., & Pielke Jr., R. (2007). The neglected heart of science policy: reconciling supply of and demand for science. Environmental Science and Policy 10(1): 5-16. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2006.10.001 

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