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Guide to Science Information Resources: Structure of a Scholarly Article

What is a scholarly article?

Example of a scholarly articleA scholarly article, also known as a research or original article, is one of the main ways new knowledge and discoveries are communicated to a scientific or academic community.  It is a full-length document on original research.  A scholarly article generally consists of the background of a research topic, its study design and methodology, the results of the study, and then its conclusion.  The scholarly articles or publications used to inform the research are listed at the end of the article as its references or works cited.

Another main objective of a scholarly article is to give readers enough information about a study to reproduce it.  Redoing a study may confirm its initial findings or reveal its possible shortcomings.  When a study is repeated with consistent results, it possesses validity or is highly likely to have a truthful result.  The new findings then can be added to its subject's body of knowledge.  When a repeated study has different results than its initial study, it may signify that a gap still remains in that area of knowledge or that subsequent studies may be needed.

General Structure of Scholarly Articles

For the convenience of readers, scholarly articles written within many STEM fields have evolved to follow an IMRAD format (or something close to it).

Publications that are used to inform the study are provided in the references or works cited at the end of the article.

I

Introduction

Background, rationale, and purpose of article.

M

Methods

Study design, measurement instruments, and rationale of their use.

R

Results

Describes the outcomes of the study without repeating the methodology.

A

Analysis

Some publications analyze the results of a method used.

D

Discussion

Presents the principles, relationships, and generalizations shown by the study;
Explains how results support (or refute) previous research;
Considers theoretical implications of the results;
Provides conclusions of the study.

Example of a Scholarly Article

See this example of a scholarly article that follows an IMRAD format; notice the article's headings and also the references cited at the end of the article.

Zhuang, L., Sun, Y., Hu, M., Wu, C., La, X., Chen, S., Feng, Y., Wang, X., Hu, Y., & Xue, L. (2016).  Or47b plays a role in Drosophila males' preference for younger mates.  Open Biology, 6(6).  DOI:  10.1098/rsob.160086

Example of article with IMRaD format