The research process begins with a question, or problem, and the desire to provide an answer. When defining the problem,
the researcher proposes a possible answer, or makes a hypothesis. Then, they consider how, who, and what to study. These steps include defining the population, crafting a research design, and gathering data. Once gathered, the data is analyzed and the hypothesis tested.
Scholarly article. It should be published in a scholarly journal and not a newspaper or popular magazine. The authors should be experts in the field and not journalists. The article must have a reference list. If the article does not have these elements it is not scholarly, and it cannot be a research article.
Conducted Research. The article should clearly state that the author(s) conducted research, ran surveys, did experiments, collected data, or otherwise gathered material on their own or with a team of researchers. It must be original research conducted by the authors of the research article, and needs to be identified as such.
Review Article? A research article is different than a review article, which is a critical evaluation of material that has been previously published. This can be done to assess the state of the literature on a topic (which is a literature review), and to suggest steps for future research.
Clues in the Abstract. Look for a sentence that says something like “this study examines…” or “we did research to find…” Such statements indicate that the author probably conducted original research
Research articles typically follow a particular format, and include specific elements that show how the research was designed, how the data was gathered, how it was analyzed, and what the conclusions are. Sometimes these sections may be labeled a bit differently, but these basic elements are consistent:
Abstract: A brief, comprehensive summary of the article, written by the author(s) of the article.This abstract must be part of the article, not a summary in the database.
Introduction: This introduces the problem, tells you why it’s important, and outlines the background, purpose, and hypotheses the authors are trying to test. The introduction comes first, just after the abstract, and is usually not labeled.
Method: Tells the reader describes in details how the research was conducted, and may be subdivided into subsections describing Materials, Apparatus, Subjects, Design, and Procedures.
Results: Summarizes the data and describes how it was analyzed. It should be sufficiently detailed to justify the conclusions.
Discussion: The authors explain how the data fits their original hypothesis, state their conclusions, and look at the theoretical and practical implications of their research.
References: Lists the complete bibliography of sources cited in the research article.
Credit to Candice Benjes-Small of Radford University for creating this guide. I adapted it with her permission.