Skip to main content

Social Work Research Guide

Use this guide to find UNO library resources and other helpful research tools.

Reading an Academic Article

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

TIP: When possible, keep your research question(s) in mind when reading scholarly articles. It will help you to focus your reading.

Title: Generally are straightforward and describe what the article is about. Titles often include relevant key words.

Abstract: A summary of the author(s)'s research findings and tells what to expect when you read the full article. It is often a good idea to read the abstract first, in order to determine if you should even bother reading the whole article.

Discussion and Conclusion: Read these after the Abstract (even though they come at the end of the article). These sections can help you see if this article will meet your research needs. If you don’t think that it will, set it aside.

Introduction: Describes the topic or problem researched. The authors will present the thesis of their argument or the goal of their research.

Literature Review: May be included in the introduction or as its own separate section. Here you see where the author(s) enter the conversation on this topic. That is to say, what related research has come before, and how do they hope to advance the discussion with their current research?

Methods: This section explains how the study worked. In this section, you often learn who and how many participated in the study and what they were asked to do. You will need to think critically about the methods and whether or not they make sense given the research question.

Results: Here you will often find numbers and tables. If you aren't an expert at statistics this section may be difficult to grasp. However you should attempt to understand if the results seem reasonable given the methods.

Works Cited (also be called References or Bibliography): This section comprises the author(s)’s sources. Always be sure to scroll through them. Good research usually cites many different kinds of sources (books, journal articles, etc.). As you read the Works Cited page, be sure to look for sources that look like they will help you to answer your own research question.

Adapted from

What is a Research Journal?

A research journal is a periodical that contains articles written by experts in a particular field of study who report the results of research in that field. The articles are intended to be read by other experts or students of the field, and they are typically much more sophisticated and advanced than the articles found in general magazines. This guide offers some tips to help distinguish scholarly journals from other periodicals.


PURPOSE: Research journals communicate the results of research in the field of study covered by the journal. Research articles reflect a systematic and thorough study of a single topic, often involving experiments or surveys. Research journals may also publish review articles and book reviews that summarize the current state of knowledge on a topic.

APPEARANCE: Research journals lack the slick advertising, classified ads, coupons, etc., found in popular magazines. Articles are often printed one column to a page, as in books, and there are often graphs, tables, or charts referring to specific points in the articles.

AUTHORITY: Research articles are written by the person(s) who did the research being reported. When more than two authors are listed for a single article, the first author listed is often the primary researcher who coordinated or supervised the work done by the other authors. The most highly‑regarded scholarly journals are typically those sponsored by professional associations, such as the American Psychological Association or the American Chemical Society.

VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY: Articles submitted to research journals are evaluated by an editorial board and other experts before they are accepted for publication. This evaluation, called peer review, is designed to ensure that the articles published are based on solid research that meets the normal standards of the field of study covered by the journal. Professors sometimes use the term "refereed" to describe peer-reviewed journals.

WRITING STYLE: Articles in research journals usually contain an advanced vocabulary, since the authors use the technical language or jargon of their field of study. The authors assume that the reader already possesses a basic understanding of the field of study.

REFERENCES: The authors of research articles always indicate the sources of their information. These references are usually listed at the end of an article, but they may appear in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography.



POPULAR MAGAZINES: These are periodicals that one typically finds at grocery stores, airport newsstands, or bookstores at a shopping mall. Popular magazines are designed to appeal to a broad audience, and they usually contain relatively brief articles written in a readable, non‑technical language.

Examples include: Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Essence, Gourmet, Life, People Weekly, Readers' Digest, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, and Vogue.

NEWS MAGAZINES: These periodicals, which are usually issued weekly, provide information on topics of current interest, but their articles seldom have the depth or authority of scholarly articles.

Examples include: Newsweek, Time, U.S. News and World Report.

OPINION MAGAZINES: These periodicals contain articles aimed at an educated audience interested in keeping up with current events or ideas, especially those pertaining to topical issues. Very often their articles are written from a particular political, economic, or social point of view.

Examples include: Catholic World, Christianity Today, Commentary, Ms., The Militant, Mother Jones, The Nation, National Review, The New Republic, The Progressive, and World Marxist Review.

TRADE MAGAZINES: People who need to keep up with developments in a particular industry or occupation read these magazines. Many trade magazines publish one or more special issues each year that focus on industry statistics, directory lists, or new product announcements.

Examples include: Beverage World, Progressive Grocer, Quick Frozen Foods International, Rubber World, Sales and Marketing Management, Skiing Trade News, and Stores.


Literature Reviews