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Understanding Academic Journal Articles
What are the Components of a Research Article?
Research articles will generally have some version of the following headings. However, it's important to remember that not all research articles will have all of the headings listed, and they may contain some headings not listed below.
Therefore, the following information should be used as a guideline. Here's what to look for:
- Abstract – helps to determine relevance of article to the reader’s interests.
- Introduction/literature review
- Purpose of the study/hypothesis/problem statement
- Methodology/procedures/research design
- Major findings/results/analysis/discussion
- Summary/conclusion/ideas for future studies/implications
- Works cited/references/acknowledgements
- Tables, charts, figures, statistical data (throughout the article)
How do I Identify Research Articles?
Listed below are some clues to help identify research articles.
- Topic: Research articles tend to be highly specific in nature, relate to a particular field, or specialty within a field, and are written by authors who have done research in the field.
- Audience: The target audience is other researchers, colleagues, students, and specialists in the same field. Research articles are written for the scholarly community, rather than a general audience.
- Language: The language of research articles is formal, generally does not use the first person, and includes jargon used in the field. Research articles are written to contribute to the knowledge base of the discipline.
- Length: Research articles can vary in length, but are typically five to fifty pages long.
- Authors: Research articles may have several authors. The organization, institute, or professional society the authors belong to will be listed.
- Content: Generally the article is written at a sophisticated enough level that the reader will need to read the article more than once in order to understand and evaluate the article.
Once you find books, articles, essays, or other documents on a research topic, you're ready to evaluate those sources to better understand the purpose, value, perspective and quality of each. Here are some great links to save you time!
Ask a Librarian!
A Reference librarian can help you:
Determine which database is most likely to lead you to articles or materials on your topic
Help you determine if an article or journal is scholarly
Develop an effective search strategy for your research paper
Choose search terms for database and library catalog searching
Find citations from books and articles to locate additional materials