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Information for teachers and students at local schools: What is a research article?

Guidance on access to resources held by the University Library for teachers and students at local schools

When students have found an article on their topic it is useful for them to evaluate the article. For instance, has it been published in a scholarly publication?

What to look for in a research article

A research article will usually include the following:

An abstract

Abstracts are found at the beginning of an article and provide a brief summary of the paper. Reading the abstract is a quick way to help you decide if the paper is useful to you, and will help you save time if you have a lot of articles to look though before you decide what you want to read in-depth.

A literature review

This section reviews literature related to the focus of the article. This provides a background to the area of research and also shows how other work in the field informs the paper.


The methodology section discusses what type of data will be collected, how it will be collected and why those specific research methods were chosen. It may also discuss the methodology's limitations and its epistemological background. 


The findings of the research are presented in the results section. The results tend to be have little commentary (if there is a separate discussion section) and are presented in an appropriate format, such as a graph, to show the findings of the research.

Discussion of the results

This section provides a discussion of the results, and links back to other sections such as the methodology and the literature review to examine possible explanations for the results.


Here the author(s) present their conclusions, perhaps suggestions for further study or ways the research could have been improved.

Bibliography or reference list

This section lists the publications that the article has cited.

Is it too advanced?

Students also need to consider if the article is at an appropriate level for their project. Is it at a popular level or is it too advanced for their purposes?

A review article may be appropriate for their level as it summarises the state of the knowledge on a topic. One way to find these is by searching the Library catalogue, or other resources, for publication titles beginning Progress in..., Reviews in... or Advances in...

The following video gives a brief introduction to the different types of journal articles.