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Research Guides@Tufts

Guide to Scholarly Articles

Anatomy of Articles in the Sciences and Social Sciences

Most original research articles or empirical studies in the sciences and social sciences  are made up of the same basic parts. Understanding each of these parts will help you be a better reader of these kinds of articles.

Abstract

The abstract provides a summary of the entire article. It will provide the research question, hypothesis or thesis, methods, and conclusion. Key words may also be included by the abstract. Abstracts are usually written by the author(s) of the article, but not always.

Introduction

The introduction will provide context for the research question, state the purpose of the article, and explain why the question is important. Importantly, the introduction will also state the hypothesis or thesis of the article.

Literature Review

Not all scholarly articles will contain a formal literature review. In this section the author(s) will discuss and contextualize related studies and scholarly literature.

Methodology

The methodology section contains the "how" of the research, by what means was the research accomplished. In a scientific article, this section should provide enough information for the study to be repeated and the results verified.

Results

The results section explains what happened in the study. This section will often contain tables, charts, and graphs.

Discussion

The discussion section contains an analysis of the study. Here the author(s) explain the meaning or importance of the results. Note that in some cases the discussion and results sections are combined.

Conclusion

The conclusion section contains the final thoughts of the author(s) on the study. This may include an additional summary and evaluation of the study such as strengths and weaknesses of the methods or data.

References

This section lists complete information about the the scholarly literature the author(s) utilized throughout the study. 

Anatomy of Articles in the Arts and Humanities

Articles in the arts and humanities are often less formulaic than articles in the sciences and social sciences. However, the following parts can be usefully distinguished.

Abstract

The abstract provides a summary of the entire article. It will provide the research question, hypothesis or thesis, methods, and conclusion. Key words may also be included by the abstract. Abstracts are usually written by the author(s) of the article, but not always.

Introduction

The introduction will provide context for the research question, state the purpose of the article, and explain why the question is important. Importantly, the introduction will also state the hypothesis or thesis of the article.

Discussion

The discussion section is the main body of the article in the arts and humanities. In this section the author will make an argument in support of their thesis by drawing on primary sources, careful argumentation, and engagement with other scholars. The discussion section is subdivided according to the internal logic of the article.

Conclusion

The conclusion section contains the final thoughts of the author(s) on the study. This may include an additional summary and evaluation of the study such as strengths and weaknesses of the methods or data. Additionally, the conclusion may suggest avenues for further research.

Works Cited / Bibliography

This section lists complete information about the the sources utilized throughout the study. Often, this section will be omitted because the relevant information is contained in the footnotes. 

Why Does this Matter?

Scholarly articles are structured to make them predictable and therefore easier to read. It is not always necessary to read an article from start to finish. Instead, you may find it more useful to focus on an articles results or methodology depending on your needs as a researcher. In any event, understanding the anatomy of a scholarly article will allow you to make the most if it according to your own purposes.