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H 225: Social and Individual Health Determinants

Anatomy of a Scholarly Research Article

An important aspect of evaluating sources is determining what kind of source it is. Scholarly research articles are written by experts for other experts and convey the results of empirical research conducted by the authors. Scholarly research articles (also sometimes called peer-reviewed articles or refereed articles) use language that can be hard to understand, and these articles can be difficult to read (remember, they are written for experts). But once you understand the parts of the article, reading it may be a bit easier. Science and social science research articles usually include the following parts:  introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Take a look at this Anatomy of a Scholary Article (from NCSU) to learn more about each part of a scholarly research article. Click on each section for an explanation of that section.

Look at the Article

Scholarly, peer-reviewed, original (empirical) research articles are research articles that have been evaluated and approved by other experts in the discipline (the process of peer-reivew) before being accepted for publication in a journal. They almost all follow a predictable pattern and contain the following elements:

1. AUTHOR:  The author(s) is always listed with the credentials that identify the author's expertise, such as university or research affiliation or the author's academic degree. Contrast this to news articles where the author may or may not be identified (and affiliation or academic credentials are not identified).

2. CONTENT:  There is an abstract at the beginning of the article which summarizes the content. The article almost always follows the pattern of having these sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. News articles, scientific letters and book reviews do not follow this pattern. 

3. ORIGINAL DATA:  Usually, original data will be presented in as charts and graphs illustrating the results of experiments. Contrast this to a news feature, which pulls together results and ideas from other researchers' work. EXCEPTION - Reviews can also be peer reviewed. While they do summarize other researchers' work, authors of a review also add their own summary and repackage the work in a new way to help demonstrate something that is original.

4. LANGUAGE:  The article language tends to be formal and technical, and is particular to the discipline in which it is written.  It is geared to other researchers in the same subject.  Contrast this with popular articles that are written at an informal and basic level for easy understanding by the general public.