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Professional Ethics: Reading Scholarly Articles

Understanding Scholarly Articles

When reading scholarly articles, you may want to pay special attention to certain sections, such as the Introduction or Conclusion. Below you'll find a description of how peer-reviewed articles are organized and what you'll find in each section.

Don't be afraid to "skip" sections of a peer-reviewed article-- for example, you can start out by reading the Introduction and the Conclusion, and then decide the article is a good fit for what you need. (You can always come back to the other sections later.)

Anatomy of a Research Article

The Citation information: Author, Article title, Journal information and Abstract:

Peer Reviewed Article- citation information

In-Text Citations:

If you have a reference that is a small number (like the "3" above), these are "footnotes" or "endnotes."  Look at the bottom of the page or the end of the article for the reference:

footnote example

Essay or Experiment / Analysis?

Peer-reviewed articles have different organization depending on their purpose: articles in the Humanities are often organized as essays that look deeper into a work or idea. These article will not be broken into sections, but just like the essays you would write for a class, the begining will have some introduction to the content, and the end will include some conclusions: 

Peer-reviewed articles that cover experimental or analyse research findings may be organized differently-- having "Introduction," "Methods / Experimental," "Conclusion / Discussion" and "Reference" sections: 

The Introduction:

Illegal Immigration article title
EBSCO article introduction

The Introduction section helps explain what studies have come before this research (the "research conversation" and what exactly this article will be looking at.

Methods / Experimental 
This is often the largest part of a research, experimental, or analysis, in the middle of the article. Here the authors will describe what they did for their experiment (or the evidence they analyzed) and what they found:

Discussion and Conclusion:
The Discussion / Conclusion section (articles use both terms) will give some interpretation of the results of the article, including whether more research is needed or if any conclusions or recommendations can be made.

The References:
Academic (scholarly) articles always include a reference list. Citations allow other researchers to find the sources the author used, give credit to other researchers, and show that the article has a solid foundation - which establishes its authority.

Article - reference example