A hands on look at the different sections of a research article can be found here.
Title: Provides an Overview
Paper titles are usually succinct, stand-alone overviews of a paper's contents. So, if you are new to a field and/or subject, it is useful to take note of the words used in the title as they may provide you with useful keywords to use in any literature searches you may perform.
Keywords: Key phrases for study
Some journals include key phrases. Key words often provide additional information about important parts of the study, such as subject population, outcome measures.
Abstract: Summarizes the Article
The purpose of the abstract is to provide the reader with a succinct summary of the article. Thus, the abstract should provide information about the specific research problem being investigated, the methods used, the results obtained, and what the results of the study mean in the larger context of the research study and in some cases the field of study. This means that the abstract is a good place to look first if you are trying to decided whether or not the paper is relevant.
Introduction: Introduces the Paper
The introduction section generally provides an overview of the research problem being studied. Hypotheses (both explicit and implicit) should be clearly presented here.
Literature Review: Provides a Context for the Paper
The literature review discusses past research on the topic in order to give readers a sense of why the research is important, what has been written on the topic in the past, and how this paper will add to the research.
Methods Section: Details the Research Methodology
The experimental section will provide detailed information on how the authors accomplished the experiments/surveys described in their paper.
Results: Presents the research findings
Data obtained from the study are introduced. Results are typically presented either in the text or in figures/data tables. Be sure to look at text, figures and tables to see all results.
Discussion/Conclusion: Interprets the research findings
Results are interpreted. Results are usually put into a broader research context and incorporated into current knowledge in the field.
Even the bibliography represents the scholarship of this article’s author(s). You may not know the field intimately, but you can glance and get a few ideas quickly.
Research articles have a formal structure that allows you to move from section to section easily. The key to effective reading of research articles is to use this formal structure to your advantage.
Tip 1. Do not read the article sequentially from first page to last. This will only get you bogged down in the details, and make it difficult to make overall sense of it.
Tip 2. Do read the following sections in order: abstract, introduction, discussion, and any tables and graphs.
Gives you a quick, easy to understand overview of the research goals and findings.
Skim the background (literature review). Focus on finding the purpose of the research, and any hypotheses being tested.
If different from the abstract, go with the information given in the Introduction.
Explains what was found (or how successful the study was), and any problems encountered by the researchers.
If different from the abstract, go with the information given in the Discussion.
Karl E. Mundt Library, Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota 57042