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What is a research article?

When scientists want to make the results of their work public, they submit an article to a scholarly journal. This is the primary way scientific knowledge is communicated and preserved for future generations.

Research articles usually contain:

Research articles are NOT good places to find:

Short articles (also called communications or letters) report research in progress and preliminary results likely to be of interest to the scientific community, and establish priority for the authors in advance of full publication. These often undergo expedited review for faster publication. Some journals publish both short and full articles; others publish only short articles.

Audience: Articles in scientific journals are written by and for experts, not the general public. Since the authors assume you have a fairly solid expertise on the subject, this can make reading articles a bit of a challenge at first. But you'll soon learn how to intelligently scan an article and extract the information you need. You don't necessarily have to read it start to finish. Most scientists read the abstract and the results first, then look at other sections of the paper, especially the methods, for details of interest.

See also: A Guide to Reading Journal Articles - from the Royal Society of Chemistry

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