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FOX Biology Research Guide: What does a scientific paper look like?

Cycle of Research

Cycle of Research: Idea, Literature Review, Experiment, Research Article, News/Social Media

Identifying Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Articles

Scholarly articles...

  • Have  a list of references at the end of the text 

  • Often feature an abstract (summary) at the beginning of the article 

  • Always list the author's name

  • Are detailed and are usually several pages long

  • Are many times peer-reviewed (or refereed)

  • Are aimed at scholars in a particular field (biology, history, philosophy, etc.)

  • Examples include: Journal of Philosophy, Modern Language Quarterly, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Popular magazines...

  • Often don't tell you who wrote the article or any of the sources they used

  • Are usually brief and offer only general or superficial coverage of a topic

  • Have lots of ads and are usually printed on glossy paper

  • Are written for a general audience

  • Are often great sources for current, general information on a topic

  • Examples include: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic

Identifying Primary Research Articles

Look for the following elements in articles you find.  Research articles contain most or all of these sections.  Look in particular for a "methods" section.

  • Abstract: A summary of the article
  • Authors and their institutional affiliation
  • Introduction/Overview
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Findings/Results
  • Discussion/Analysis
  • Conclusions and recommendations for further research
  • References: list of sources used

Example Primary Research Article