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Scholarly Journal Articles: Structure and Function

Structure of a research article in the health sciences

Research in the health sciences can be qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of the two. This guide will focus primarily on quantitative research.

Quantitative research articles are usually written in a standardized format called the IMRaD format. This acronym refers to the Introduction, Methods, Results, (and) Discussion sections of the articles. There is also usually a Conclusions section. By following this conventional structure, authors ensure that readers of their articles will be able to readily locate the paper's critical elements.


This rule is not hard and fast, and sometimes the sections may be rearranged or combined, or the authors may use alternate wording for the headings. Regardless, the basic elements are usually present.

Some types of original studies, such as case reports, do not readily lend themselves to this format. But even these types of papers will often follow a logical progression, in which they begin by stating the problem, then move on to describing their findings, and finally to offering possible explanations or conclusions.

Journal articles that are not primary literature, most notably review articles, will be written in whatever style is most appropriate to the content.