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How to Read a Scholarly Article: Anatomy of an Article

Articles in the Sciences

Scientific research articles include original studies and review articles that contribute to the current scholarship on a given topic. 

The table below describes the components of scholarly articles in the Social Sciences and Physical Sciences. The majority of articles in these disciplines will have the sections listed below.

Abstract Brief summary of the article, including research question, methodology and results.
Introduction Background information about the topic, leading up to why this study is being done, and may include a brief literature review.
Methods Description of how the study procedures, set-up and how data was collected.
Results/Findings Presentation of the data from the study. This section often includes tables, charts, or other visualizations of the data.
Discussion Analysis of the data and how the study relates to existing knowledge of the topic. The authors evaluate whether their results answer their research question. 
Conclusion The authors wrap up the article by discussion how their study contributes to the research on this topic and outline future  potential research questions or studies. 
References List of resources that the authors consulted when developing their research and subsequently cited in their article.

Anatomy of an Article

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article: Interactive Tutorial

Original Research Vs. Review

Original research articles are based on an experiment or study. The authors will report the purpose of the study, the research methodology, and results. This is a familiar structure for original research articles > IMRAD: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Review articles summarize or synthesize content from earlier published research and are useful for surveying the literature on a specific research area. Review articles can lead you to original research articles.

Articles in the Arts & Humanities

Scholarly articles in the Arts and Humanities are set up differently than in the Sciences. Articles may read more like essays, rather than reports on scientific experiments. 

In the Humanities, scholars are not conducting experiments on participants but rather are making logical arguments based on the evidence they have researched and analyzed.

In literature, for example, a scholar may be studying a particular novel of an author. In history, a scholar may look at the primary source documents from the time period they are studying.

The following sections are generally included in humanities scholarly articles, although they may not be clearly marked or labeled. 

Abstract A summary of the research provided at the beginning of the article, although sometimes articles do not have an abstract. 
Introduction Provides background information for the topic being studied. The article's thesis will be found in the introduction, and may also include a brief literature review.
Discussion/Conclusion The discussion likely runs through the entire article and is the main component of the article providing analysis, criticism, etc.The conclusion wraps up the article; both sections usually are not labeled. 
Works Cited List of sources cited in the article by the author(s).