Let's examine the content in each section of a scientific
paper, and discuss why each section may be useful to you as a reader.
TITLE. The title will help you to determine
if an article is interesting or relevant for your
Well-written titles give a reasonably complete
description of the study that was conducted, and sometimes even
foreshadow the findings. Included in a title are the species studied,
the kinds of experiments performed, and perhaps a brief indication
of the results obtained.
ABSTRACT. Abstracts provide you with a
complete, but very succinct summary of the paper.
An abstract contains brief statements of the purpose,
methods, results, and conclusions of a study. Abstracts are
often included in article databases, and are usually free to
a large audience. Thus, they may be the most widely read portions
of scientific papers.
INTRODUCTION. You will find background information and
a statement of the author's hypothesis in the introduction.
An introduction usually describes the theoretical
background, indicates why the work is important, states a specific
research question, and poses a specific hypothesis to be tested.
. The methods section will help you
determine exactly how
the authors performed the experiment.
The methods describes both specific techniques and
the overall experimental strategy used by the scientists. Generally,
the methods section does not need to be read in detail. Refer
to this section if you have a specific question about the experimental
RESULTS. The results section contains the
data collected during experimention.
The results section is the heart of a scientific
paper. In this section, much of the important information may
be in the form of tables or graphs. When reading this section,
do not readily accept an author's statements about the results.
Rather, carefully analyze the raw data in tables and figures to
draw your own conclusions.
DISCUSSION. The discussion section will explain
the authors interpret their data and how they connect it
to other work.
Authors often use the discussion to describe what
their work suggests and how it relates to other studies. In this
section, authors can anticipate and address any possible objections
to their work. The discussion section is also a place where authors
can suggest areas of improvement for future research.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.The acknowledgments tell
you what people or institutions (in addition to the authors) contributed
to the work.
In reading the acknowledgments, you can see what sources provided
financial support for the study. You might want to know an industry
group or the federal government funded the study.
LITERATURE CITED. This section provides
the sources cited throughout the paper.
This section offers information on the range of
other studies cited: Does the author cite only his or her previous
studies? Are both classic and modern sources influencing this
work? Does the author look to the work of scientists in other
disciplines? The literature cited section is also helpful for
generating a list of background reading on the topic under study.