Skip to Main Content

CU Science Discovery Camp

Ask A Librarian

Make an appointment

Chat, Call, Text



Profile Photo
Abbey Lewis

Parts of a Research Article

Research articles are divided into sections that usually appear in the order below.  Understanding the purpose of each section and the information that you're likely to find there can help you read research articles more effectively.  

Abstract - Summarizes the articles and highlights key points and findings.

Introduction - Says what the research is and why it's important.  Notes previous research that informs this study.

Methodology - Provides details on how the authors conducted their study and what choices they made in designing it.  May also note problems they foresee or inconsistencies with their methods.

Results - Presents the findings of the study without interpretation.

Discussion - Explains what the results mean and often ties them to ideas that were mentioned in the introduction.  If the study falls short in some way (e.g. the results are inconclusive), this should be mentioned here. 

Note: Occasionally, these sections might have slightly different names.  For example, Materials and Methods instead of Methodology or Conclusion instead of Discussion.  They might also be presented in a different order.  However, the overall purpose and content to be found in each section will remain the same.

Tips for Reading

  • The order in which the sections are presented is often not the best.  Try reading the abstract, introduction, discussion, results, then methodology.
  • When reading the introduction, try to identify the research question that the authors are trying to answer.  What is it that they want to learn from their study?
  • In the discussion, determine what the authors think is important about their findings.  What implications does it have for future research?
  • Now that you know the authors' interpretation of their findings, read the results. How do the results fit into the context of what the authors think they've learned? Are their conclusions reasonable given their findings?
  • In the methodology, try to understand what the authors did.  Is it a realistic way to find answers to their research question?
  • Be patient with yourself.  Reading research articles can take a long time at first, but as you become more experienced the process will go more quickly.