AcWriMo: How to Create a Framework for a Journal Article

In this post, we help you to know what to include in particular subsections, and give you a few tips to help you on your way.

First of all, read the Author Guidelines for the journal that you are writing for.  They’re normally on the Journal’s website, and they are vital reading BEFORE you start to write.  Why?  Because they will tell you all you need to know about the type and size of font to use, formatting of your manuscript, how to submit, word (or character) limits and headings for subsections. Here are some links to journals from various disciplines:

Engineering:        International Journal of Satellite Communications and Networking

Science:                Animal Biosciences

Social Sciences:  American Journal of Political Science

Arts:                     Journal of Memory and Language

TIP: Don’t assume that all journals use the same subsection headings!

Here are just a few variations in subsection headings in the main part of a journal article that you might find:

  1. Introduction / Methods / Results and Discussion / Conclusions / References
  2. Introduction / Methods / Results / Discussion / References
  3. Introduction / Literature Review / Methods / Results / Discussion / Conclusions / References

The first two are probably the most common, so let’s take a look at the differences in content between the two structures.

The main difference is that in Structure 1, the main body of your article will end with a short conclusion that summarises the main findings of the study and highlights the study’s contribution to the field. Because you have a discussion section as well, there is no need to repeat all of the findings in the conclusion, just the most important one(s). Conclusions that follow from Discussion sections tend to be short – one or two paragraphs long.

In Structure 2, there is no section headed ‘Conclusion’, and so your discussion has to cover the following elements:

  • Summary of your key findings
  • Discussion of how those key findings move the literature forward
  • Contribution of study to the field
  • Acknowledgement of main limitations of the study presented in the article
  • (Recommendation for future research) – not always included (check with other articles in your journal of choice and with the Author Guidelines to see if they included recommendations to help you decide whether or not to include them.)

Here are a few tips on creating a structure for a journal article:

  1. Using the Author Guidelines, make a note of the word/page limit for the article, and then list the various section headings required from your journal of choice on a piece of paper (or computer), and leave lots of space between each one.
  2. Now make a list of all the things you need to do in each section, e.g. In the Introduction, you need to set the background context, present some key research themes in the relevant field, highlight the gap, briefly present the purpose of your study, outline the structure of the paper.
  3. Once you’ve listed all the things you need to do in each section, look over your outline structure, and check that there is a logic to it.
  4. Finally, decide how many words you can use for each section.

(Based on idea presented by Orna, E. & Stevens, S. (1995) Managing Information for Research: Practical help in researching, writing and designing dissertations. Oxford: OUP)

You now have a framework for writing your article!