Journal articles

This section discusses peer-reviewed research articles written for journals and conferences. It covers:

Journal articles, also known as ‘papers’, are intended to further the progress of the field by reporting new research or new interpretations of existing work, or by critically reviewing earlier work. Thousands of academic journals are published, and most are highly specialised.

Each journal has instructions for authors (sometimes called ‘author guidelines’ or ‘advice to authors’). The instructions cover many different areas, from formatting and maximum word limits to procedures for submitting papers and dealing with copyright issues.

The conventions vary greatly from field to field. For more subject-specific advice, see:

Content of a research article

A paper may:

  • present some results of significance in a way that demonstrates their validity and implications
  • illustrate some important specific cases
  • outline a new method, instrument or algorithm
  • review existing work and point the way forwards
  • present a critique or new interpretation of existing results or works.

In general, a paper should not:

  • consist mostly of the authors’ unsupported opinions
  • attack the authors behind existing results, rather than the technical validity of the results
  • make unsubstantiated assertions
  • present work that has been published elsewhere
  • present work that is not a reasonable contribution to the field.
Return to top

Typical parts and order of sections in a research paper

A paper that discusses an experiment or investigation will generally use the following structure:

  • Introduction – What was the problem or question?
  • Materials and methods – How did we study it?
  • Results – What did we find?
  • Discussion – What do the results mean?

This structure helps the author organise the information; it also helps the reader to obtain information efficiently. The 4 main parts of a paper link as 2 pairs:

  • ‘Introduction’ links with ‘Discussion’.
  • ‘Materials and methods’ links with ‘Results’.

These links mean that the questions, challenges or problems posed in ‘Introduction’ should be considered and answered in ‘Discussion’, and the structure of activities in ‘Materials and methods’ should link to the structure of outputs in ‘Results’. Having similar structures in the pairs of parts helps your reader to understand the information you are presenting.

Other components of the paper may include:

  • abstract
  • author names and affiliations
  • keywords
  • abbreviations
  • acknowledgments
  • conflict-of-interest statement
  • references
  • additional online material.

Papers that review, critique or interpret other works (which could be technical, literary, philosophical, etc) use other structures. For example:

  • Introduction and background
  • Scope of study
  • Methodology
  • Literature review
  • Main body of paper
  • Conclusion


  • Introduction
  • Body topic 1
  • Body topic 2
  • Body topic 3
  • Conclusion.
Return to top

The peer-review process

When an article is submitted to a journal, it is first checked by an editor, who may not be an expert on the specific topic of the work. The editor checks that it meets the scope of the journal, the formatting requirements for manuscripts and other technical requirements.

If it is deemed potentially publishable, the article is sent to reviewers, who are experts on the subject. They provide reviews that the editor collates and provides to the author. Authors have an opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments. The journal then considers whether to publish the paper.

This flowchart sums up a typical peer-review process.

Tip: Any paper will have a better chance of success if it is well written and follows the journal’s specified manuscript format.
Return to top

User login

... or purchase now

An individual subscription is only A$60 per year

Group and student discounts may apply

Australian manual of scientific style Start communicating effectively