In this article, we’ll look at the five main document types of academic publishing: original research, scholarly paper, peer review, letter, and case study.
Academic publishing is very similar to publishing in science, with articles and research studies falling into many categories, which is helpful to researchers when browsing through journal databases. While one journal may publish a research article, another journal may prefer to refer to it as an article, though the writing, review, and publishing processes are fairly similar whichever the label.
For most academics, researchers, and students, having their research published in a reputable journal is a primary career goal as it not only gives the researcher credibility, but it also shows they have produced valid research that adds to the body of knowledge in their specific subject area. However, journals do not solely publish research articles, but they also comprise other elements in each edition, such as observations, news bulletins, writers’ columns in which they share their personal opinions about a topic under discussion, and newly developed methodologies that help to advance future studies in the field.
The publishing process
Note that getting an article published is not a straightforward process. Any reputable journal will stipulate that authors must follow a strict revision and verification process to ensure their article is of a publishable standard.
All articles should be peer-reviewed by professionals in the field. The journal editor usually handles the peer-review process, which is necessary to make sure the content and supplementary material are valid and appropriate, leaving no gaps in the research nor plagiarism.
When the author receives their peer-reviewed article back from the reviewer, they will amend their article with the changes pointed out in the peer-review. The author will then submit it back to the editor, and the process is repeated until the article is deemed suitable for publishing. After the peer-review stage is complete, the article is ready to be published in the journal; however, the article must also conform to the required format or style guide. Hence, to adhere to the preferred style, an editor or publisher will adjust the format accordingly. The typesetting stage incorporates adjustments to fonts, margins, paragraph indents, headings/sub-headings, and all references and appendices.
While the publishing process is relatively the same for print and digital publications, digital journals have become increasing common as it is much easier and faster to prepare journal editions in a digital format.
Types of academic publishing
While there are many formats available to researchers, some publishers only select specific formats for their journals. These formats depend on the research field and the individual preferences of the journal.
The two main types of literature, primary and secondary literature, refer to an author’s original research and research conducted on other published works, respectively. Remember to check the submission guidelines of the target journal you aim to publish with, as each will have their own specific guidelines as to the layout, format, length, academic style, etc.
The following section of this article presents an overview of the main article types in academic and scientific publishing.
Original research articles are the most common form of an article in academic publishing. Original research articles contain in-depth research comprising all the usual elements of a research article: introduction and background to the study, research questions/hypotheses, results, data analysis, and a discussion and conclusion. The typical length of a research article is somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 words, though the maximum limit is not specified.
The research design dictates the format of the study, whether experimental, correlation, diagnostic, or explanatory.
2. Scholarly paper
Like original research articles, papers are commonly published in academic journals. The purpose of a research paper is to either present original results or examine existing ones. Further, like original research, scholarly papers are also subjected to peer-review before being selected for publication. Although the two formats seem very similar, there is a major difference: research articles are published in scientific journals, whereas scholarly papers (written by students), are not published in journals. However, as digital publishing has become commonplace, many researchers decide to self-publish their papers on their own websites as the peer-review process takes increasingly longer depending on the status of the journal.
3. Peer review
Other scholars in the field conduct peer reviews to ensure a research paper is of an equal standard to other previously published studies. Not only do peer reviews act as a quality control mechanism, but they also screen for evidence of plagiarism. They are generally undertaken the publication of an article, allowing the author to tailor their article in response to the peer reviewer’s feedback.
While not all peer reviews are published, on invitation, some reviewers may have their reviews published alongside a recently published article. This style of peer review allows the author to further expand upon the published work and state their defense should they wish to do so.
Letters are concise descriptions of the research study, often written on-the-fly by the author. Letters often report significant moments in the study, which can thus spur further interest among readers. With a restrictive word count, letters could be akin to tweet-like bulletins.
5. Case studies
Case studies are in-depth studies on a specific subject. Researchers look for anomalies in results, predictions, phenomena, and under-explored research areas with gaps in the existing body of knowledge. They may choose several research methods to collect a broader pool of data, which is then analyzed to uncover new understandings and theories. It is customary for researchers to have experience in the research topic, or at least a significant interest in the subject. They often conduct their research in real-time, with the aim to observe and report things as they are. Case studies are often used in the fields of medicine and the social sciences.