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SOWK 275 Introduction to Social Work Practice:

Dr. Pam Reid, Spring Semester 2020

General Structure of a Research Paper

  • The heart of any research or scholarly publication is the methodology section! Please review the methods/methodology section carefully.
  • Note that ALL original publications (primary articles) are peer-reviewed and typically include the sections below or some variation of them. 
  • On the other hand, not all scholarly/academic publications are peer-reviewed. Please appraise each article individually.
  • The section below are commonly found in original articles (primary articles):

Look for the IMRaD elements in Peer-Reviewed Articles

Primary research articles (also called empirical/clinical studies or research articles) contain firsthand information or original data on a topic that is not interpreted, evaluated, or analyzed.  These articles also include components or a variation of these components: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (known as the IMRaD format). 
Primary research articles are usually peer-reviewed (
i.e. article was critically evaluated by experts in the field before accepted for publication).

Why Peer-Review Matters

What is the Peer Review Process and Why it Matters?
According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, "peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are usually not part of the editorial staff. Because unbiased, independent, critical assessment is an intrinsic part of all scholarly work, including scientific research, peer review is an important extension of the scientific process." (ICMJE, 2017)

When searching the literature, be sure to choose peer-reviewed publications. The peer review process gives articles more authority. Keep in mind that not every item indexed in a peer-reviewed journal is an article (e.g. book reviews, letters).

The Broad Spectrum of Literature

IMRaD Elements in a Research Paper

Characteristics of Scholarly Articles

When trying to determine if an article would be considered "scholarly," look at the following characteristics:

  • Length: The article is usually several pages long, and can, at times, be as long as 20 to 30 pages.
  • Author: There is always an author or group of authors listed. The author(s) usually have credentials or affiliations listed.
  • Audience: The intended audience is other experts, researchers, and students in the field.
  • Refereed: Articles may be “refereed,” or reviewed by peers prior to being accepted for publication.
  • Illustrations: The article may include maps, tables, and graphs that support the text. Colorful photographs are rarely used.
  • References: The article always includes citations to research discussed in the article in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies.
  • Language: Look for vocabulary that would be used in the author’s field or discipline.
  • Format: The article follows a standardized format (APA, MLA, etc.).
  • Title: Keep in mind that not all scholarly journals have “Journal” in the title (although many do). Also, not every source that has “Journal” in the title is actually scholarly. (Example: Ladies Home Journal)