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Scientific writing: Journal Articles

Defining Journal Articles

What is a journal article?

A journal article is made to share your own original research with other scientists or for reviewing the research conducted by others.

When you are making your journal article, you want to consider the following questions:

  • What key message(s) do you want to communicate?
  • Can you identify a significant advance that will come from your article?
  • How could your arguments, results, or findings change the way that people think or advance understanding in the field?

What is the difference between a lab report and a journal article?

Lab reports and Journal articles have a lot in common. They usually have the same sections and are organized in the same way.

However, what makes them different is the type of audience they are made for. Lab reports are usually shorter and are made for the teacher and classmates so that others may be able to copy the study. A journal article not only demonstrates the study but also opens doors for conversation with other research in the field and invite further study. The audience is not only for the class learning but the scientific community at large.


How to Write a Journal Article

The Sections of a Journal Article

Journal articles follow the IMRaD format.


Before your paper uses the IMRaD format, a good title should be able to tell the reader what to expect from the journal article.


Although the abstract is not officially part IMRaD, it is still an important component. The abstract is set right before the actual paper. Readers of a scientific paper read the abstract for two purposes: to decide whether or not they want to read the full paper and to prepare themselves for the details presented in the paper. The abstract parallels the paper's introduction and conclusion in order to demonstrate the goals for the work presented. 


The introduction clarifies the goals of the work presented and prepares readers for the framework of the paper.

There are four things you should do in your introduction:

  1. Give context to tell your readers who are less familiar with your topic and to establish the importance of your work.
  2. State the need of your work. Introduce what the science community currently has on the topic and what is missing.
  3. Indicate what you have done to address this need.
  4. Preview the remainder of the paper to mentally prepare readers for its structure.

Material and Methods

Material and methods provides sufficient detail so other scientists can reproduce the experiments presented in the paper. In some journals, this information is placed in an appendix, because it is not what most readers want to know first.


Results are the factual presentation of the data that was collected and/or analyzed. This data may be presented as charts, graphs, tables, images, text, or any other visualization. The results and discussion are sometimes combined into one section. 


The discussion interprets the results and compares the main results to previous research. The strengths and limitations of the study are also included as well.



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