The Research Conversation

You will be using scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles for many of your college assignments. However, not all articles in a scholarly journal are research articles. You may also find editorials, news, trends, commentaries, and book reviews in a scholarly journal. Research articles will usually contain the sections listed below.

Think of these sections in terms of a conversation with the reader asking the questions and the authors answering them in each of the sections of their article.


  • Abstract
    Reading the abstract (brief summary of the article) can save you a lot of time. You usually will be able to tell from the abstract if the article will be useful for your research.
  • Introduction
    While most articles contain an introduction, the introduction of a research article should state the problem area being studied, the importance of the problem area, and how this study will add something of importance to the problem being studied. Authors will often include their research question or hypothesis in the last paragraph of the introduction.

“What is your research about?”

“Why did you choose this topic?”

“What do you hope to find out?”

  •  Literature Review
    This section discusses who else has written about and studied the same (or similar) topic. The literature review may be incorporated into the introduction, or it may appear in a separate section.

“What have others studied in this area?”

“Can you fill me in on some background about this topic?”

  • Methodology
    In this section, the author explains how the study was conducted. Surveys are one of the most common types of research in the social sciences. You will come across terms such as sample, participants, and design in articles based on survey research.

“How did you go about doing your research?”

  • Results / Findings
    You will often see tables, graphs, and charts in this section to make the results easier for the reader to understand. There should be a direct connection between the methodology and the information presented in the results section.

“What did you find out?”

  • Discussion/Summary/Conclusion
    In this section (or sections), the author explains the results and compares these results to those mentioned in the literature review. Problems and unexpected occurrences are often included in this section, as well as recommendations for further research.

“What is the importance of what you found out?”

“What would you recommend for future studies in this area?”

  • References
    An excellent source for further information!
Some of the above information is from “The Standard Conversation” (page 208) in Chapter 13 of Zina O’Leary’s   The Essential Guide to Doing Research.