How to Read and Understand a Journal Article / Research Article?

People new to research often find it hard to read and understand an article. Research articles have a very specific format. They usually have five main sections: Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. Let’s briefly discuss each section below.

Abstract

The Abstract is a brief description of the entire research paper. It should not exceed 250 words and ranges between 150- 250 words. The Abstract describes the problem under investigation and the purpose of the study; the participants / Sample and research methodology; the findings, including statistical significance levels; and the conclusions and implications or applications of the study.

Introduction

The Introduction has three basic components: an introduction to the problem under study; a review of relevant previous research, which cites works that are important and significant for the study; and the purpose and rationale for the study.

Method

The Method section describes exactly how the study was conducted, in sufficient detail that a person who reads the Method section could replicate the study. The Method section is generally divided into subsections. Although the subsections vary across papers, the most common subsections are Sample, Participants, Materials or Apparatus, and Procedure. The Participants subsection includes a description of the participants and how they were obtained. The Materials subsection usually describes any testing materials that were used, such as a particular test or inventory or a type of problem that participants were asked to solve. An Apparatus subsection describes any specific equipment that was used. The Procedure subsection summarizes each step in the execution of the research, including the groups used in the study, instructions given to the participants, the experimental manipulation, and specific control features in the design.

Results

The Results section summarizes the data collected and the type of statistic used to analyze the data. In addition, the results of the statistical tests used are reported with respect to the variables measured and/or manipulated. This section should include a description of the results only, not an explanation of the results. In addition, the results are often depicted in tables and graphs or figures.

Discussion

The results are evaluated and interpreted in the Discussion section. Typically, this section begins with a restatement of the predictions of the study and tells whether or not the predictions were supported. It also typically includes a discussion of the relationship between the results and past research and theories. Highlight the implications for future research are presented.