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Guide to Science Information Resources

What is a scholarly article?

Example of Scholarly Article

An example of the beginning of a scholarly article.  Lee, N.K., & Rawson, R.A. (2009).  A systematic review of cognitive and behavioural therapies for methamphetamine dependence. Drug and Alcohol Review, 27 (3): 309-317.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09595230801919494.  Image permission by CC-BY 2.0. 

A 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 a Scholarly Article

In order to effectively and efficiently communicate information, journal articles in many fields follow a particular structure and organization known as IMRAD.  An article will often begin with an abstract and then include its introduction, methods used, results, analysis, and discussion. 

One benefit of IMRAD is that readers can promptly read a particular section with the information they want.  The table below describes IMRAD's acronyms and what can be found in these sections of an article; some studies may use similar terms.  Certain sections may be left out due to a study's design or the communication norms for some scholarly fields.

Abstract
  • A summary of the research, its methods, and findings.
  • The study's hypothesis or research questions.
  • The main points of a study can be found here.

Introduction

  • Background information on the study's topic of focus.
  • A summary of the current state of knowledge on the topic when it was studied.
  • Problems or gaps in the research may be introduced, which the study attempts to address.
Methods
  • The paradigm or study design, and rationale for use.
  • Description of the population, people, or samples used in the study.
  • Instrumentation and measurements used.
  • (For systematic reviews or meta-analyses) Pre-established criteria defined.
Results
  • A summation of the information or data collected.
Analysis
  • A statistical analysis of the study and its findings, including types of statistics used.
  • May include many charts or tables of the analysis.
Discussion
  • Shortcomings of the study.
  • Conclusions of the findings.
  • Gaps in knowledge identified or recommendations for further 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.

Example of article with IMRaD format

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

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Last updated on Jan 11, 2023 9:45 AM