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Journal Article Basics

Get answers to your questions about scholarly journal articles.

What is an abstract?

Knowing about the different sections of a scholarly article and the type of information presented in each section, will make it easier to understand what the article is about. Also, reading specific parts or sections of an article can help save you time as you decide whether an article is relevant.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article interactive Tutorial

Title

The title of a scholarly article is generally (but not always) an extremely brief summary of the article's contents. It will usually contain technical terms related to the research presented.

Authors

Authors and their credentials will be provided in a scholarly article. Credentials may appear with the authors' names, as in this example, or they may appear as a footnote or an endnote to the article. The authors' credentials are provided to establish the authority of the authors, and also to provide a point of contact for the research presented in the article. For this reason, authors' e-mail addresses are usually provided in recent articles.

Publication

On the first page of an article you will usually find the journal title, volume/issue numbers, if applicable, and page numbers of the article. This information is necessary for you to write a citation of the article for your paper.

The information is not always neatly outlined at the bottom of the first page; it may be spread across the header and footer of the first page, or across the headers or footers of opposite pages, and for some online versions of articles, it may not be present at all.

Abstract

The abstract is a brief summary of the contents of the article, usually under 250 words. It will contain a description of the problem and problem setting; an outline of the study, experiment, or argument; and a summary of the conclusions or findings. It is provided so that readers examining the article can decide quickly whether the article meets their needs.

Introduction

The introduction to a scholarly article describes the topic or problem the authors researched. The authors will present the thesis of their argument or the goal of their research. The introduction may also discuss the relevance or importance of the research question.

An overview of related research and findings, called a literature review, may appear in the introduction, though the literature review may be in its own section.

Charts, Graphs, etc.

Scholarly articles frequently contain charts, graphs, equations, and statistical data related to the research. Pictures are rare unless they relate directly to the research presented in the article.

Article Text

The body of an article is usually presented in sections, including an introduction, a literature review, one or more sections describing and analyzing the argument, experiment or study.

Scientific research articles typically include separate sections addressing the methods and results of the experiment, and a discussion of the research findings.

Articles typically close with a conclusion summarizing the findings.

The parts of the article may or may not be labeled, and two or more sections may be combined in a single part of the text. The text itself is typically highly technical, and assumes a familiarity with the topic. Jargon, abbreviations, and technical terms are used without definition.

Methods or Methodology

The methods section of a scholarly article generally outlines the experimental design, the materials, and the methods (procedures) of the experiment. 

Results

The results section of a scholarly article is generally devoted to discussing the type of analysis conducted regarding the data as well as the results. 

Conclusion

A scholarly article will end with a conclusion, where the authors summarize the results of their research. The authors may also discuss how their findings relate to other scholarship, or encourage other researchers to extend or follow up on their work.

Discussion

The discussion of a scholarly article generally includes a description of how the study contributes to the existing body of research, an analysis of the research questions and hypotheses, and a discussion of the research in connection to the real world. 

References

Most scholarly articles contain many references to publications by other authors. You will find these references scattered throughout the text of the article, as footnotes at the bottom of the page, or endnotes at the end of the article.

Most papers provide a list of references at the end of the paper. Each reference listed there corresponds to one of the citations provided in the body of the paper. You can use this list of references to find additional scholarly articles and books on your topic.