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EDU 517: Educational Policy and Theoretical Foundations of Literacy

Graduate students will examine and research the relationship between political policy and trends in educational policy and practice.

Empirical Research Articles

An empirical article is a research article that reports the results of a study that uses data derived from actual observation or experimentation.  There are several different sections of reports of empirical studies relating to the different steps of the scientific method.

Review Articles

Review articles are further examinations of research that has already been published--they are secondary resources.  A research review can describe a phenomenon, review an existing theory or present a new one. Whatever the kind of review, the goal is to organize, integrate, and evaluate previous research in order to clarify a particular problem or issue.

Theoretical Articles

Theoretical articles are written to advance theory and they may include both empirical research and a review of research in order to elaborate the theoretical position.  

Empirical Study: the nuts and bolts

You should become familiar with the format of an article reporting on original research so that you can recognize an empirical study even if you come across it in your reading (i.e. without using a library database to assist you in limiting to this type of journal article).

There are several different sections of reports of empirical studies relating to the different steps of the scientific method:

  • Abstract – A report of an empirical study includes an abstract that provides a very brief summary of the research.
  • Introduction – The introduction sets the research in a context, which provides a review of related research and develops the hypotheses for the research.
  • Method – The method section is a description of how the research was conducted, including who the participants were, the design of the study, what the participants did, and what measures were used.
  • Results – The results section describes the outcomes of the measures of the study.
  • Discussion – The discussion section contains the interpretations and implications of the study.
  • General Discussion – There may be more than one study in the report; in this case, there are usually separate Method and Results sections for each study followed by a general discussion that ties all the research together.
  • References - A references section contains information about the articles and books cited in the report.

The following is an example of an empirical study:

Tsou, W. (2011). The Application of Readers Theater to FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools) Reading and Writing. Foreign Language Annals44(4), 727-748.

Distinguishing between resources







Trade or Professional Journals


Popular Magazines












Use for in-depth, original research findings, and peer-reviewed research articles.


Use for current events topics or editorials and opinions dealing with current events.


Offers specialized industry or professional articles that tend to be more practical and applied in nature.


For the general interest reader—these articles are used to inform or entertain.

Why scholarly/peer-reviewed journals?

Scholarly or Peer-Reviewed journals contain literature that is written by experts in a particular field of study. 

The three major types of journal articles included in such journals are: reports of empirical studies, review articles, and theoretical articles.

Such resources are essential when writing for graduate courses, dissertations, thesis, grant proposals, etc.  because using scholarly resources for your research provides the backing of experts, which can make your argument stronger.

    Scholarly Articles Explained

    Having a hard time discerning the information in your empirical/original research articles?  This interactive image will help you discern the different sections.