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Research Basics Tutorial: Parts of a Scholarly Article

Key Components of a Scholarly Article

Components of a Research Article


The title may include terms like “outcomes,” “effects,” “treatments,” and “reactions” that indicate the article deals with research. Example:

Human touch effectively and safely reduces pain in the newborn intensive care unit


Provides the author(s) name(s) and publication information. Example:

Herrington, C. J., & Chiodo, L. M. (2014). Human touch effectively and safely reduces pain in the newborn intensive care unit. Pain Management Nursing, 15(1), 107-115. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2012.06.007


Used by readers to quickly evaluate the overall article content. Introduces topic and specific research question, usually provides statement regarding methodology and a general statement about the results and findings.

This was a feasibility pilot study to evaluate the efficacy of the nonpharmacologic pain management technique of gentle human touch (GHT) in reducing pain response to heel stick in premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Eleven premature infants ranging from 27 to 34 weeks’ gestational age, in a level III NICU in a teaching hospital, were recruited and randomized to order of treatment in this repeated-measures crossover-design experiment. Containment with GHT during heel stick was compared with traditional nursery care (side lying and “nested” in an incubator). Heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and cry were measured continuously beginning at baseline and continuing through heel warming, heel stick, and recovery following the heel stick. Infants who did not receive GHT had decreased respiration, increased heart rate, and increased cry time during the heel stick... No significant differences were noted in oxygen saturation in either group. GHT is a simple nonpharmacologic therapy that can be used by nurses and families to reduce pain of heel stick in premature infants in the NICU.


Introduces the broad overall topic and provides basic background information.  Then narrows down to the specific research question relating to the topic. Provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the article and sets the justification for the research. Sometimes this includes a literature review that describes past important research and relates it specifically to the research question.

Background: Nearly 13% of all pregnancies result in premature birth (infants born before 37 weeks’ completed gestation) every year in the U.S. (Martin, Hamilton, Sutton, Ventura, Mathews, & Osterman, 2010). It is estimated that 50%–70% of infants born prematurely develop neurobehavioral deficits/delays that are often undiagnosed until preschool and early school age…. Although multiple mechanisms affect overall neurobehavioral development in these infants, increased scientific attention has focused on the detrimental effects of minor repetitive pain exposure in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) (Fitzgerald & Walker, 2009; Grunau, 2002; Hack, Klein, & Taylor, 1995). . . .

Study Aim: The present study was designed to test the efficacy of gentle human touch in reducing pain response in premature infants undergoing heel stick for medically indicated blood sampling compared with standard nursery care of positioning with nonhuman confinement using “blanket nesting.”


Describes the research design and methodology used to complete the study.  Includes the sample of who was studied and sample size.

Study Design: This was an experimental pilot feasibility study using a repeated-measures crossover study design. Pain response was measured around two medically indicated heel sticks for blood sampling. Each infant received one heel stick with GHT intervention and one heel stick without GHT. Infants served as their own controls with random assignment to order of treatment (GHT vs. no GHT) in blocks of four to maximize study power. . . .

Sample: Sample size was determined using feasibility considerations of the number of premature infants treated in the unit where the study was conducted. . . .


Results of the analysis are presented that are directly related to the research or problem.

Data Analysis: Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the demographic data and evaluate distributions, measures of central tendency, and outcome variable variability (HR, RR, SaO2, and cry). In SPSS (version 20), repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to analyze the effects of intervention versus no intervention. . . .

Discussion / Conclusion

This section should be a discussion of the results, and the implications on the field. The research question should be answered and validated by the interpretation of the results. This section could also discuss how results relate to previous research, any cautions about the findings, and potential for future research.

Discussion: The data reported here provide evidence of the ability of gentle human touch to reduce pain response in premature infants undergoing heel stick for medically indicated blood sampling compared with standard nursery care of positioning with nonhuman confinement using “blanket nesting. . . .”

Study Limitations: There are study limitations that need to be considered as the findings are interpreted. Although statistical significance was noted in several between-group comparisons, the sample was small, thus threatening study validity. However, the clinical significance is important. . . .

Recommendations for Future Research: …Future research should examine the efficacy of GHT to reduce pain response over the duration of the NICU stay and the potential for sensitization to the GHT when used consistently for pain reduction. . . .

Summary: This study presents new evidence supporting the feasibility and effectiveness of gentle human touch for relief of pain of heel stick in the NICU. GHT is a quick and easy intervention that can be provided by nurses to reduce pain.


This section should be an alphabetized list of all the academic sources of information utilized in the paper.

Axelin, A., Salantera, S., Lehtonen, L. (2006). Facilitated tucking by parents’ in pain management of preterm infants—A randomized crossover trial. Early Human Development, 82 (4) (2006), pp. 241–247.

Fitzgerald, M., Walker, S.M. (2009). Infant pain management: A developmental neurobiological approach. Nature Clinical Practice. Neurology, 5 (1) pp. 35–50.

A Few Basic Types of Scholarly Articles

Peer review isn't a tough concept. It just means that the article was reviewed by scholars and meets certain standards with regards to a publication or a discipline. These articles are typically written by professors or specialists. A great clue that something is peer reviewed or scholarly: The article contains a list of references or cites.

Qualitative Study Qualitative Study Literature Review Meta-Analysis
Sample groups too small to analyze using statistics Produces numerical results / analyzed statistically An article that provides an overview of important research on a particular topic Reviews several quantitative studies analyzing them looking for patterns/ trends within data
Case Study May involves experimentation Considered scholarly but not primary research/ no new study is conducted Uses existing studies
Open-ended questions on surveys Survey/ questionnaire Usually considered another form of quantitative research
Interviews or Focus Groups      
Direct Observation of people as they go about their daily lives.



Ethnographic Observation
Studying an entire culture while immersed within it.

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative research seeks to understanding some aspect of social life, and its methods (usually) generate words, rather than numbers, as data for analysis. These research methods seek to understand the experiences and attitudes of the people being studied. They answer questions about the “what,” “how, “ or “why” of a phenomenon rather than “how many” or “how much,” which are answered by quantitative methods.