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BIOL 3511: Cell Biology

Structure of an Article

Most scholarly research articles follow the same structure. Below is a basic outline of this structure. Note that different articles may use different names for the sections, combine some sections, or separate other sections. Some sections may be larger in some articles and smaller in other articles. However, you will find roughly the same information, in the same order, in all articles. Knowing what to expect from each section of an article can help you read and understand it more easily.


  • summary of what is to come in the article
  • brief outline of the researchers' purpose, methods, and results


  • overview of the research/experiment--its purpose and importance
  • background information about the topic
  • brief summary of previous similar research
    • this sometimes appears in a separate section called "Literature Review"


  • description of the procedures the researchers used
  • high level of detail to ensure that the experiment is reproducible


  • data collected during the research
  • usually comes in the form of tables, graphs, and charts


  • meaning and implication of results
  • answer to research question/problem


  • summary of findings
  • comparisons to previous research
  • suggestions for future research and/or how the results could be useful


  • citations for publications the researchers consulted during their research and writing


  • statement of funding sources
  • conflict of interest statement
  • acknowledgments


Strategy for Reading Articles

Unlike when reading novels or news articles, when reading scholarly articles, jumping around instead of reading straight through can actually be more efficient and increase your understanding. Use the following strategy to help you get the most out of articles:

  • Abstract
    • Read the abstract first to see if the article is relevant to your topic. If not, no need to read further. Just move on to the next article.
  • Discussion and Conclusion
    • Read the end of the article to see what the researchers found. This helps you see where the article is headed and gives you an even better idea of what the article is about and whether it will be useful to you.
  • Introduction
    • Read the introduction for more detail about the subject of the research and the researchers' approach to it.
  • Methods and Results
    • Read the methods and results to find out all of the details about how the researchers did their experiment and the data they collected.
  • Whole Paper, in Order
    • Read the entire paper over, in the order it appears, to get a sense of the research as a whole.
  • References
    • Look through the references for other articles on the same topic that might also be useful to you.