biology reading site image no navigation top banner image
spacer gif

Understanding overall structure of an article

button

The research article typically has the following main stages:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion

The overall purpose of a research paper is to interpret, explain and argue about the significance of what was found, including the limitations of the findings.

Click on each stage to see which question is answered by each stage and which sub-purpose relates to that stage.

Stage and Question Sub-Purpose  
Abstract - What, why, how, so what ...

to summarise the reason for the research, how it was done, the key findings and the meaning of the findings

Introduction - Why ...

to give background to the research, justify the need for the research and state the research aims

Methods - How ...

to tell the reader how the research was done, e.g. what procedure was followed, details of the sample, the statistical analyses undertaken, the materials used

Results - What ...

to tell the reader what was found

Discussion - So what ...

to interpret, explain and argue about the significance of what was found, including the limitations of the findings

Conclusion - So what ...

to summarise the findings and interpretations and discuss implications of the research

Clicking on the exercise icon above or Next will let you try this out yourself.