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Primacy of the research question, structure of the paper, writing a research article: advice to beginners.

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Thomas V. Perneger, Patricia M. Hudelson, Writing a research article: advice to beginners, International Journal for Quality in Health Care , Volume 16, Issue 3, June 2004, Pages 191–192, https://doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/mzh053

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Writing research papers does not come naturally to most of us. The typical research paper is a highly codified rhetorical form [ 1 , 2 ]. Knowledge of the rules—some explicit, others implied—goes a long way toward writing a paper that will get accepted in a peer-reviewed journal.

A good research paper addresses a specific research question. The research question—or study objective or main research hypothesis—is the central organizing principle of the paper. Whatever relates to the research question belongs in the paper; the rest doesn’t. This is perhaps obvious when the paper reports on a well planned research project. However, in applied domains such as quality improvement, some papers are written based on projects that were undertaken for operational reasons, and not with the primary aim of producing new knowledge. In such cases, authors should define the main research question a posteriori and design the paper around it.

Generally, only one main research question should be addressed in a paper (secondary but related questions are allowed). If a project allows you to explore several distinct research questions, write several papers. For instance, if you measured the impact of obtaining written consent on patient satisfaction at a specialized clinic using a newly developed questionnaire, you may want to write one paper on the questionnaire development and validation, and another on the impact of the intervention. The idea is not to split results into ‘least publishable units’, a practice that is rightly decried, but rather into ‘optimally publishable units’.

What is a good research question? The key attributes are: (i) specificity; (ii) originality or novelty; and (iii) general relevance to a broad scientific community. The research question should be precise and not merely identify a general area of inquiry. It can often (but not always) be expressed in terms of a possible association between X and Y in a population Z, for example ‘we examined whether providing patients about to be discharged from the hospital with written information about their medications would improve their compliance with the treatment 1 month later’. A study does not necessarily have to break completely new ground, but it should extend previous knowledge in a useful way, or alternatively refute existing knowledge. Finally, the question should be of interest to others who work in the same scientific area. The latter requirement is more challenging for those who work in applied science than for basic scientists. While it may safely be assumed that the human genome is the same worldwide, whether the results of a local quality improvement project have wider relevance requires careful consideration and argument.

Once the research question is clearly defined, writing the paper becomes considerably easier. The paper will ask the question, then answer it. The key to successful scientific writing is getting the structure of the paper right. The basic structure of a typical research paper is the sequence of Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (sometimes abbreviated as IMRAD). Each section addresses a different objective. The authors state: (i) the problem they intend to address—in other terms, the research question—in the Introduction; (ii) what they did to answer the question in the Methods section; (iii) what they observed in the Results section; and (iv) what they think the results mean in the Discussion.

In turn, each basic section addresses several topics, and may be divided into subsections (Table 1 ). In the Introduction, the authors should explain the rationale and background to the study. What is the research question, and why is it important to ask it? While it is neither necessary nor desirable to provide a full-blown review of the literature as a prelude to the study, it is helpful to situate the study within some larger field of enquiry. The research question should always be spelled out, and not merely left for the reader to guess.

Typical structure of a research paper

The Methods section should provide the readers with sufficient detail about the study methods to be able to reproduce the study if so desired. Thus, this section should be specific, concrete, technical, and fairly detailed. The study setting, the sampling strategy used, instruments, data collection methods, and analysis strategies should be described. In the case of qualitative research studies, it is also useful to tell the reader which research tradition the study utilizes and to link the choice of methodological strategies with the research goals [ 3 ].

The Results section is typically fairly straightforward and factual. All results that relate to the research question should be given in detail, including simple counts and percentages. Resist the temptation to demonstrate analytic ability and the richness of the dataset by providing numerous tables of non-essential results.

The Discussion section allows the most freedom. This is why the Discussion is the most difficult to write, and is often the weakest part of a paper. Structured Discussion sections have been proposed by some journal editors [ 4 ]. While strict adherence to such rules may not be necessary, following a plan such as that proposed in Table 1 may help the novice writer stay on track.

References should be used wisely. Key assertions should be referenced, as well as the methods and instruments used. However, unless the paper is a comprehensive review of a topic, there is no need to be exhaustive. Also, references to unpublished work, to documents in the grey literature (technical reports), or to any source that the reader will have difficulty finding or understanding should be avoided.

Having the structure of the paper in place is a good start. However, there are many details that have to be attended to while writing. An obvious recommendation is to read, and follow, the instructions to authors published by the journal (typically found on the journal’s website). Another concerns non-native writers of English: do have a native speaker edit the manuscript. A paper usually goes through several drafts before it is submitted. When revising a paper, it is useful to keep an eye out for the most common mistakes (Table 2 ). If you avoid all those, your paper should be in good shape.

Common mistakes seen in manuscripts submitted to this journal

Huth EJ . How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences , 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1990 .

Browner WS . Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research . Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1999 .

Devers KJ , Frankel RM. Getting qualitative research published. Educ Health 2001 ; 14 : 109 –117.

Docherty M , Smith R. The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers. Br Med J 1999 ; 318 : 1224 –1225.

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Writing for an academic journal: 10 tips

1) Have a strategy, make a plan

Why do you want to write for journals? What is your purpose? Are you writing for research assessment? Or to make a difference? Are you writing to have an impact factor or to have an impact? Do you want to develop a profile in a specific area? Will this determine which journals you write for? Have you taken their impact factors into account?

Have you researched other researchers in your field – where have they published recently? Which group or conversation can you see yourself joining? Some people write the paper first and then look for a 'home' for it, but since everything in your article – content, focus, structure, style – will be shaped for a specific journal, save yourself time by deciding on your target journal and work out how to write in a way that suits that journal.

Having a writing strategy means making sure you have both external drivers – such as scoring points in research assessment or climbing the promotion ladder – and internal drivers – which means working out why writing for academic journals matters to you. This will help you maintain the motivation you'll need to write and publish over the long term. Since the time between submission and publication can be up to two years (though in some fields it's much less) you need to be clear about your motivation.

2) Analyse writing in journals in your field

Take a couple of journals in your field that you will target now or soon. Scan all the abstracts over the past few issues. Analyse them: look closely at all first and last sentences. The first sentence (usually) gives the rationale for the research, and the last asserts a 'contribution to knowledge'. But the word 'contribution' may not be there – it's associated with the doctorate. So which words are used? What constitutes new knowledge in this journal at this time? How can you construct a similar form of contribution from the work you did? What two sentences will you write to start and end your abstract for that journal?

Scan other sections of the articles: how are they structured? What are the components of the argument? Highlight all the topic sentences – the first sentences of every paragraph – to show the stages in the argument. Can you see an emerging taxonomy of writing genres in this journal? Can you define the different types of paper, different structures and decide which one will work best in your paper? Select two types of paper: one that's the type of paper you can use as a model for yours, and one that you can cite in your paper, thereby joining the research conversation that is ongoing in that journal.

3) Do an outline and just write

Which type of writer are you: do you always do an outline before you write, or do you just dive in and start writing? Or do you do a bit of both? Both outlining and just writing are useful, and it is therefore a good idea to use both. However, make your outline very detailed: outline the main sections and calibrate these with your target journal.

What types of headings are normally used there? How long are the sections usually? Set word limits for your sections, sub-sections and, if need be, for sub-sub-sections. This involves deciding about content that you want to include, so it may take time, and feedback would help at this stage.

When you sit down to write, what exactly are you doing:using writing to develop your ideas or writing to document your work? Are you using your outline as an agenda for writing sections of your article? Define your writing task by thinking about verbs – they define purpose: to summarise, overview, critique, define, introduce, conclude etc.

4) Get feedback from start to finish

Even at the earliest stages, discuss your idea for a paper with four or five people, get feedback on your draft abstract. It will only take them a couple of minutes to read it and respond. Do multiple revisions before you submit your article to the journal.

5) Set specific writing goals and sub-goals

Making your writing goals specific means defining the content, verb and word length for the section. This means not having a writing goal like, 'I plan to have this article written by the end of the year' but 'My next writing goal is to summarise and critique twelve articles for the literature review section in 800 words on Tuesday between 9am and 10.30'. Some people see this as too mechanical for academic writing, but it is a way of forcing yourself to make decisions about content, sequence and proportion for your article.

6) Write with others

While most people see writing as a solitary activity, communal writing – writing with others who are writing – can help to develop confidence, fluency and focus. It can help you develop the discipline of regular writing. Doing your academic writing in groups or at writing retreats are ways of working on your own writing, but – if you unplug from email, internet and all other devices – also developing the concentration needed for regular, high-level academic writing.

At some point – ideally at regular intervals – you can get a lot more done if you just focus on writing. If this seems like common sense, it isn't common practice. Most people do several things at once, but this won't always work for regular journal article writing. At some point, it pays to privilege writing over all other tasks, for a defined period, such as 90 minutes, which is long enough to get something done on your paper, but not so long that it's impossible to find the time.

7) Do a warm up before you write

While you are deciding what you want to write about, an initial warm up that works is to write for five minutes, in sentences, in answer to the question: 'What writing for publication have you done [or the closest thing to it], and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term?'

Once you have started writing your article, use a variation on this question as a warm up – what writing for this project have you done, and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term? Top tip: end each session of writing with a 'writing instruction' for yourself to use in your next session, for example, 'on Monday from 9 to 10am, I will draft the conclusion section in 500 words'.

As discussed, if there are no numbers, there are no goals. Goals that work need to be specific, and you need to monitor the extent to which you achieve them. This is how you learn to set realistic targets.

8) Analyse reviewers' feedback on your submission

What exactly are they asking you to do? Work out whether they want you to add or cut something. How much? Where? Write out a list of revision actions. When you resubmit your article include this in your report to the journal, specifying how you have responded to the reviewers' feedback. If your article was rejected, it is still useful to analyse feedback, work out why and revise it for somewhere else.

Most feedback will help you improve your paper and, perhaps, your journal article writing, but sometimes it may seem overheated, personalised or even vindictive. Some of it may even seem unprofessional. Discuss reviewers' feedback – see what others think of it. You may find that other people – even eminent researchers – still get rejections and negative reviews; any non-rejection is a cause for celebration. Revise and resubmit as soon as you can.

9) Be persistent, thick-skinned and resilient

These are qualities that you may develop over time – or you may already have them. It may be easier to develop them in discussion with others who are writing for journals.

10) Take care of yourself

Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. It can be extremely stressful. Even making time to write can be stressful. And there are health risks in sitting for long periods, so try not to sit writing for more than an hour at a time. Finally, be sure to celebrate thoroughly when your article is accepted. Remind yourself that writing for academic journals is what you want to do – that your writing will make a difference in some way.

These points are taken from the 3rd edition of Writing for Academic Journals .

Rowena Murray is professor in education and director of research at the University of the West of Scotland – follow it on Twitter @UniWestScotland

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Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's Perspective

Syed sameer aga.

1 Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Quality Assurance Unit, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs (MNGHA), King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah 21423, Saudi Arabia

2 Molecular Diseases & Diagnostics Division, Infinity Biochemistry Pvt. Ltd, Sajad Abad, Chattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir 190010, India

Saniya Nissar

Associated data.

No data were used in this review.

Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying relevant in the field. Success in translating the benchworks into the scientific content, which is effectively communicated within the scientific field, is used in evaluating the researcher in the current academic world. Writing is a highly time-consuming and skill-oriented process that requires familiarity with the numerous publishing steps, formatting rules, and ethical guidelines currently in vogue in the publishing industry. In this review, we have attempted to include the essential information that novice authors in their early careers need to possess, to be able to write a decent first scientific manuscript ready for submission in the journal of choice. This review is unique in providing essential guidance in a simple point-wise manner in conjunction with easy-to-understand illustrations to familiarize novice researchers with the anatomy of a basic scientific manuscript.

1. Background

Communication is the pivotal key to the growth of scientific literature. Successfully written scientific communication in the form of any type of paper is needed by researchers and academicians alike for various reasons such as receiving degrees, getting a promotion, becoming experts in the field, and having editorships [ 1 , 2 ].

Here, in this review, we present the organization and anatomy of a scientific manuscript enlisting the essential features that authors should keep in their mind while writing a manuscript.

2. Types of Manuscripts

Numerous types of manuscripts do exist, which can be written by the authors for a possible publication ( Figure 1 ). Primarily, the choice is dependent upon the sort of communication authors want to make. The simplest among the scientific manuscripts is the “Letter to an Editor,” while “Systematic Review” is complex in its content and context [ 3 ].

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Types of manuscripts based on complexity of content and context.

3. Anatomy of the Manuscript

Writing and publishing an effective and well-communicative scientific manuscript is arguably one of the most daunting yet important tasks of any successful research project. It is only through publishing the data that an author gets the recognition of the work, gets established as an expert, and becomes citable in the scientific field [ 4 ]. Among the numerous types of scientific manuscripts which an author can write ( Figure 1 ), original research remains central to most publications [ 4 – 10 ].

A good scientific paper essentially covers the important criteria, which define its worth such as structure, logical flow of information, content, context, and conclusion [ 5 ]. Among various guidelines that are available for the authors to follow, IMRAD scheme is the most important in determining the correct flow of content and structure of an original research paper [ 4 , 11 – 13 ]. IMRAD stands for introduction, methods, results, and discussion ( Figure 2 ). Besides these, other parts of the manuscript are equally essential such as title, abstract, keywords, and conclusion ( Figure 3 ).

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Generalized anatomy of manuscript based on IMRAD format.

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Three important contents of the title page—title, abstract, and keywords.

IMRAD scheme was introduced in the early 1900 by publishers to standardize the single format of the scientific manuscript and since then is the universal format used by most the publishing houses [ 6 , 14 – 17 ]. In the next sections, the contents and criteria of each of them are explained in detail. A list of the most common mistakes, which the author makes in these sections, is also provided in the tabulated form [ 18 ] ( Table 1 ).

Common mistakes authors make in their manuscripts.

  • The title is the most important element of the paper, the first thing readers encounter while searching for a suitable paper [ 1 ]. It reflects the manuscript's main contribution and hence should be simple, appealing, and easy to remember [ 7 ].
  • A good title should not be more than 15 words or 100 characters. Sometimes journals ask for a short running title, which should essentially be no more than 50% of the full title. Running titles need to be simple, catchy, and easy to remember [ 19 , 20 ].
  • Keeping the titles extremely long can be cumbersome and is suggestive of the authors' lack of grasp of the true nature of the research done.
  • It usually should be based on the keywords, which feature within the main rationale and/or objectives of the paper. The authors should construct an effective title from keywords existing in all sections of the main text of the manuscript [ 19 ].
  • Having effective keywords within the title helps in the easy discovery of the paper in the search engines, databases, and indexing services, which ultimately is also reflected by the higher citations they attract [ 1 ].
  • It is always better for the title to reflect the study's design or outcome [ 21 ]; thus, it is better for the authors to think of a number of different titles proactively and to choose the one, which reflects the manuscript in all domains, after careful deliberation. The paper's title should be among the last things to be decided before the submission of the paper for publication [ 20 ].
  • Use of abbreviations, jargons, and redundancies such as “a study in,” “case report of,” “Investigations of,” and passive voice should be avoided in the title.

5. Abstract

  • The abstract should essentially be written to answer the three main questions—“What is new in this study?” “What does it add to the current literature?” and “What are the future perspectives?”
  • A well-written abstract is a pivotal part of every manuscript. For most readers, an abstract is the only part of the paper that is widely read, so it should be aimed to convey the entire message of the paper effectively [ 1 ].

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Two major types of abstract—structured and unstructured. Structured abstracts are piecemealed into five different things, each consisting of one or two sentences, while unstructured abstracts consist of single paragraph written about the same things.

  • An effective abstract is a rationalized summary of the whole study and essentially should contain well-balanced information about six things: background, aim, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion [ 6 , 19 ].

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Three C concept followed while writing the manuscript.

  • An abstract should be written at the end, after finishing the writing of an entire manuscript to be able to stand-alone from the main text. It should reflect your study completely without any reference to the main paper [ 19 ].
  • The authors need to limit/write their statements in each section to two or three sentences. However, it is better to focus on results and conclusions, as they are the main parts that interest the readers and should include key results and conclusions made thereof.
  • Inclusion of excessive background information, citations, abbreviations, use of acronyms, lack of rationale/aim of the study, lack of meaningful data, and overstated conclusions make an abstract ineffective.

6. Keywords

  • Keywords are the important words, which feature repeatedly in the study or else cover the main theme/idea/subject of the manuscript. They are used by indexing databases such as PubMed, Scopus, and Embase in categorizing and cross-indexing the published article.
  • It is always wise to enlist those words which help the paper to be easily searchable in the databases.
  • Keywords can be of two types: (a) general ones that are provided by the journal or indexing services called as medical subject headings (MeSH) as available in NCBI ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/mesh/ ) and (b) custom ones made by authors themselves based on the subject matter of the study [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Upon submission, journals do usually ask for the provision of five to ten keywords either to categorize the paper into the subject areas or to assign it to the subspecialty for its quick processing.

7. Introduction

  • (i) The whole idea of writing this section is to cover two important questions—“What are the gaps present in the current literature?” and “Why is the current study important?”
  • (ii) Introduction provides an opportunity for the authors to highlight their area of study and provide rationale and justification as to why they are doing it [ 20 , 22 , 23 ].
  • (iii) An effective introduction usually constitutes about 10–15% of the paper's word count [ 22 ].
  • The first paragraph of the introduction should always cover “What is known about the area of study?” or “What present/current literature is telling about the problem?” All relevant and current literature/studies, i.e., original studies, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews, should be covered in this paragraph.
  • The second paragraph should cover “What is unknown or not done about this issue/study area?” The authors need to indicate the aspects of what has not been answered about the broader area of the study until now.
  • The third paragraph should identify the gaps in the current literature and answer “What gaps in the literature would be filled by their current study?” This part essentially identifies the shortcoming of the existing studies.
  • The fourth paragraph should be dedicated to effectively writing “What authors are going to do to fill the gaps?” and “Why do they want to do it?” This paragraph contains two sections—one explains the rationale of the study and introduces the hypothesis of the study in form of questions “What did authors do? and Why they did do so?” and the second enlists specific objectives that the authors are going to explore in this study to answer “Why this study is going to be important?” or “What is the purpose of this study?”.

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Funnel-down scheme followed while writing the introduction section of manuscript, moving from broader to specific information.

  • (v) Introduction is regarded as the start of the storyline of manuscript, and hence, the three Cs' scheme ( Figure 5 ) becomes more relevant while writing it: the context in terms of what has been published on the current idea/problem around the world, content as to what you are going to do about the problem in hand (rationale), and conclusion as to how it is going to be done (specific objective of the study) [ 1 , 23 ].
  • (vi) Introduction is the first section of the main manuscript, which talks about the story; therefore, while writing it authors should always try to think that “would this introduction be able to convince my readers?” [ 25 ]. To emphasize on the importance of the study in filling the knowledge gap is pivotal in driving the message through [ 23 ].
  • (vii) Introduction should never be written like a review, any details, contexts, and comparisons should be dealt within the discussion part [ 16 ].
  • (viii) While choosing the papers, it is wise to include the essential and recent studies only. Studies more than 10 years old should be avoided, as editors are inclined towards the recent and relevant ones only [ 20 , 22 ].
  • (ix) In the last paragraph, enlisting the objectives has a good impact on readers. A clear distinction between the primary and secondary objectives of the study should be made while closing the introduction [ 22 ].
  • (i) It is regarded as the skeleton of the manuscript as it contains information about the research done. An effective methods section should provide information about two essential aspects of the research—(a) precise description of how experiments were done and (b) rationale for choosing the specific experiments.
  • Study Settings: describing the area or setting where the study was conducted. This description should cover the details relevant to the study topic.

Different guidelines available for perusal of the authors for writing an effective manuscript.

  • Sample Size and Sampling Technique: mentioning what number of samples is needed and how they would be collected.
  • Ethical Approvals: clearly identifying the study approval body or board and proper collection of informed consent from participants.
  • Recruitment Methods: using at least three criteria for the inclusion or exclusion of the study subjects to reach an agreed sample size.
  • Experimental and Intervention Details: exhaustively describing each and every detail of all the experiments and intervention carried out in the study for the readers to reproduce independently.
  • Statistical Analysis: mentioning all statistical analysis carried out with the data which include all descriptive and inferential statistics and providing the analysis in meaningful statistical values such as mean, median, percent, standard deviation (SD), probability value (p), odds ratio (OR), and confidence interval (CI).

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Methods and the seven areas which it should exhaustively describe.

  • (iii) Methods should be elaborative enough that the readers are able to replicate the study on their own. If, however, the protocols are frequently used ones and are already available in the literature, the authors can cite them without providing any exhaustive details [ 26 ].
  • (iv) Methods should be able to answer the three questions for which audience reads the paper—(1) What was done? (2) Where it was done? and (3) How it was done? [ 11 ].
  • (v) Remember, methods section is all about “HOW” the data were collected contrary to “WHAT” data were collected, which should be written in the results section. Therefore, care should be taken in providing the description of the tools and techniques used for this purpose.
  • (vi) Writing of the methods section should essentially follow the guidelines as per the study design right from the ideation of the project. There are numerous guidelines available, which author's must make use of, to streamline the writing of the methods section in particular (see Table xx for details).
  • (vii) Provision of the information of the equipment, chemicals, reagents, and physical conditions is also vital for the readers for replication of the study. If any software is used for data analysis, it is imperative to mention it. All manufacturer's names, their city, and country should also be provided [ 6 , 11 ].
  • The purpose of the results section of the manuscript is to present the finding of the study in clear, concise, and objective manner to the readers [ 7 , 27 , 28 ].
  • Results section makes the heart of the manuscript, as all sections revolve around it. The reported findings should be in concordance with the objectives of the study and be able to answer the questions raised in the introduction [ 6 , 20 , 27 ].
  • Results should be written in past tense without any interpretation [ 6 , 27 ].

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Interdependence between methods and results of the manuscript.

  • It is always better to take refuge in tables and figures to drive the exhaustive data through. Repetition of the data already carried in tables, figures, etc., should be avoided [ 4 , 6 , 20 ].
  • Proper positioning and citations of the tables and figures within the main text are also critical for the flow of information and quality of the manuscript [ 6 , 11 ].
  • Results section should carry clear descriptive and inferential statistics in tables and/or figures, for ease of reference to readers.
  • Provision of the demographic data of the study participants takes priority in the results section; therefore, it should be made as its first paragraph. The subsequent paragraphs should introduce the inferential analysis of the data based on the rationale and objectives of the study. The last paragraphs mention what new results the study is going to offer [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].
  • authors should not attempt to report all analysis of the data. Discussing, interpreting, or contextualizing the results should be avoided [ 20 ].

10. Discussion

  • (i) The main purpose of writing a discussion is to fill the gap that was identified in the introduction of the manuscript and provide true interpretations of the results [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].

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Pyramid scheme followed while writing the discussion section of manuscript, moving from the key results of the study to the specific conclusions.

  • (iii) Discussion section toggles between two things—content and context. The authors need to exhaustively describe their interpretation of the analyzed data (content) and then compare it with the available relevant literature (context) [ 1 , 29 ]. Finally, it should justify everything in conclusion as to what all this means for the field of study.
  • (iv) The comparison can either be concordant or discordant, but it needs to highlight the uniqueness and importance of the study in the field. Care should be taken not to cover up any deviant results, which do not gel with the current literature [ 30 ].
  • (v) In discussion it is safe to use words such as “may,” “might,” “show,” “demonstrate,” “suggest,” and “report” while impressing upon your study's data and analyzed results.
  • (vi) Putting results in context helps in identifying the strengths and weakness of the study and enables readers to get answers to two important questions—one “what are the implications of the study?” Second “how the study advance the field further?” [ 1 , 30 ].
  • The first paragraph of the discussion is reserved for highlighting the key results of the study as briefly as possible [ 4 , 6 ]. However, care should be taken not to have any redundancy with the results section. The authors should utilize this part to emphasize the originality and significance of their results in the field [ 1 , 4 , 11 , 20 ].
  • The second paragraph should deal with the importance of your study in relationship with other studies available in the literature [ 4 ].
  • Subsequent paragraphs should focus on the context, by describing the findings in comparison with other similar studies in the field and how the gap in the knowledge has been filled [ 1 , 4 ].
  • In the penultimate paragraph, authors need to highlight the strengths and limitations of the study [ 4 , 6 , 30 ].
  • Final paragraph of the discussion is usually reserved for drawing the generalized conclusions for the readers to get a single take-home message.
  • (viii) A well-balanced discussion is the one that effectively addresses the contribution made by this study towards the advancement of knowledge in general and the field of research in particular [ 7 ]. It essentially should carry enough information that the audience knows how to apply the new interpretation presented within that field.

11. Conclusion

  • It usually makes the last part of the manuscript, if not already covered within the discussion part [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Being the last part of the main text, it has a long-lasting impact on the reader and hence should be very clear in presenting the chief findings of the paper as per the rationale and objectives of the study [ 4 , 20 ].

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Crux of the conclusion section.

12. References or Bibliography

  • Every article needs a suitable and relevant citation of the available literature to carry the contextual message of their results to the readers [ 31 ].
  • Inclusion of proper references in the required format, as asked by the target journal, is necessary.

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A Google Scholar screenshot of different styles of formatting of references.

  • Depending upon the journal and publishing house, usually, 30–50 citations are allowed in an original study, and they need to be relevant and recent.

13. Organization of the Manuscript Package

Ideally, all manuscripts, no matter where they have to be submitted, should follow an approved organization, which is universally used by all publication houses. “Ready to submit” manuscript package should include the following elements:

  • (i) Cover letter, addressed to the chief editor of the target journal.
  • (ii) Authorship file, containing the list of authors, their affiliations, emails, and ORCIDs.
  • (iii) Title page, containing three things—title, abstract, and keywords.
  • Main text structured upon IMRAD scheme.
  • References as per required format.
  • Legends to all tables and figures.
  • Miscellaneous things such as author contributions, acknowledgments, conflicts of interest, funding body, and ethical approvals.
  • (v) Tables as a separate file in excel format.
  • (vi) Figures or illustrations, each as a separate file in JPEG or TIFF format [ 32 ].
  • (vii) Reviewers file, containing names of the suggested peer reviewers working or publishing in the same field.
  • (viii) Supplementary files, which can be raw data files, ethical clearance from Institutional Review Board (IRBs), appendixes, etc.

14. Overview of an Editorial Process

Each scientific journal has a specific publication policies and procedures, which govern the numerous steps of the publication process. In general, all publication houses process the submission of manuscripts via multiple steps tightly controlled by the editors and reviewers [ 33 ]. Figure 12 provides general overview of the six-step editorial process of the scientific journal.

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An overview of the journal's editorial process.

15. Summary

The basic criteria for writing any scientific communication are to know how to communicate the information effectively. In this review, we have provided the critical information of do's and don'ts for the naive authors to follow in making their manuscript enough impeccable and error-free that on submission manuscript is not desk rejected at all. but this goes with mentioning that like any other skill, and the writing is also honed by practicing and is always reflective of the knowledge the writer possesses. Additionally, an effective manuscript is always based on the study design and the statistical analysis done. The authors should always bear in mind that editors apart from looking into the novelty of the study also look at how much pain authors have taken in writing, following guidelines, and formatting the manuscript. Therefore, the organization of the manuscript as per provided guidelines such as IMRAD, CONSORT, and PRISMA should be followed in letter and spirit. Care should be taken to avoid the mistakes, already enlisted, which can be the cause of desk rejection. As a general rule, before submission of the manuscript to the journal, sanitation check involving at least two reviews by colleagues should be carried out to ensure all general formatting guidelines are followed.


The authors would like to thank all academicians and researchers who have actively participated in the “Writing Manuscript Workshops” at the College of Medicine, KSAU-HS, Jeddah, which prompted them to write this review.

Data Availability

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Authors' Contributions

Both authors have critically reviewed and approved the final draft and are responsible for the content and similarity index of the manuscript. SSA conceptualized the study, designed the study, surveyed the existing literature, and wrote the manuscript. SN edited, revised, and proofread the final manuscript.

How to Write an Article: A Proven Step-by-Step Guide

Tom Winter

Are you dreaming of becoming a notable writer or looking to enhance your content writing skills? Whatever your reasons for stepping into the writing world, crafting compelling articles can open numerous opportunities. Writing, when viewed as a skill rather than an innate talent, is something anyone can master with persistence, practice, and the proper guidance.

That’s precisely why I’ve created this comprehensive guide on ‘how to write an article.’ Whether you’re pursuing writing as a hobby or eyeing it as a potential career path, understanding the basics will lead you to higher levels of expertise. This step-by-step guide has been painstakingly designed based on my content creation experience. Let’s embark on this captivating journey toward becoming an accomplished article writer!

What is an Article?

what is an article

An article is more than words stitched together cohesively; it’s a carefully crafted medium expressing thoughts, presenting facts, sharing knowledge, or narrating stories. Essentially encapsulating any topic under the sun (or beyond!), an article is a versatile format meant to inform, entertain, or persuade readers.

Articles are ubiquitous; they grace your morning newspaper (or digital equivalents), illuminate blogs across various platforms, inhabit scholarly journals, and embellish magazines. Irrespective of their varying lengths and formats, which range from news reports and features to opinion pieces and how-to guides, all articles share some common objectives. Learning how to write this type of content involves mastering the ability to meet these underlying goals effectively.

Objectives of Article Writing

Objectives of Article Writing

The primary goal behind learning how to write an article is not merely putting words on paper. Instead, you’re trying to communicate ideas effectively. Each piece of writing carries unique objectives intricately tailored according to the creator’s intent and the target audience’s interests. Generally speaking, when you immerse yourself in writing an article, you should aim to achieve several fundamental goals.

First, deliver value to your readers. An engaging and informative article provides insightful information or tackles a problem your audience faces. You’re not merely filling up pages; you must offer solutions, present new perspectives, or provide educational material.

Next comes advancing knowledge within a specific field or subject matter. Especially relevant for academic or industry-focused writings, articles are often used to spread original research findings and innovative concepts that strengthen our collective understanding and drive progress.

Another vital objective for those mastering how to write an article is persuasion. This can come in various forms: convincing people about a particular viewpoint or motivating them to make a specific choice. Articles don’t always have to be neutral; they can be powerful tools for shifting public opinion.

Finally, let’s not forget entertainment – because who said only fictional work can entertain? Articles can stir our emotions or pique our interest with captivating storytelling techniques. It bridges the gap between reader and writer using shared experiences or universal truths.

Remember that high-quality content remains common across all boundaries despite these distinct objectives. No matter what type of writer you aspire to become—informative, persuasive, educational, or entertaining—strive for clarity, accuracy, and stimulation in every sentence you craft.

What is the Format of an Article?

What is the Format of an Article?

When considering how to write an article, understanding its foundation – in this case, the format – should be at the top of your list. A proper structure is like a blueprint, providing a direction for your creative construction.

First and foremost, let’s clarify one essential point: articles aren’t just homogenous chunks of text. A well-crafted article embodies different elements that merge to form an engaging, informative body of work. Here are those elements in order:

  • The Intriguing Title

At the top sits the title or heading; it’s your first chance to engage with a reader. This element requires serious consideration since it can determine whether someone will continue reading your material.

  • Engaging Introduction

Next comes the introduction, where you set expectations and hint at what’s to come. An artfully written introduction generates intrigue and gives readers a compelling reason to stick around.

  • Informative Body

The main body entails a detailed exploration of your topic, often broken down into subtopics or points for more manageable consumption and better flow of information.

  • Impactful Conclusion

Lastly, you have the conclusion, where you tie everything neatly together by revisiting key points and offering final thoughts.

While these components might appear straightforward on paper, mastering them requires practice, experimentation with writing styles, and a good understanding of your target audience. 

By putting in the work to familiarize yourself with how to create articles and how they’re structured, you’ll soon discover new ways to develop engaging content each time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!). Translating complex concepts into digestible content doesn’t need to feel daunting anymore! Now that we’ve tackled the format, our focus can shift to what should be included in an article.

What Should Be in an Article?

What Should Be in an Article?

Understanding that specific items should be featured in your writing is crucial. A well-crafted article resembles a neatly packed suitcase – everything has its place and purpose.

Key Information

First and foremost, you need essential information. Start by presenting the topic plainly so readers can grasp its relevance immediately. This sets the tone of why you are writing the article. The degree of depth at this point will depend on your audience; be mindful not to overwhelm beginners with too much jargon or over-simplify things for experts.


Secondly, every article must have an engaging introduction—this acts as the hook that reels your audience. Think of it as a movie trailer—it offers a taste of what’s to come without giving away all the details.

Third is the body, wherein you get into the crux of your argument or discussion. This is the point at which you present your ideas sequentially, along with supporting evidence or examples. Depending on the nature of your topic and personal style, this may vary from storytelling forms to more analytical breakdowns.

Lastly, you’ll need a fitting conclusion that wraps up all previously discussed points, effectively tying together every loose thread at the end. This helps cement your main ideas within the reader’s mind even after they’ve finished reading.

To summarize:  

  • Critical Information: Provides context for understanding
  • Introduction: Sheds further light on what will follow while piquing interest  
  • Body: Discusses topic intricacies using narratives or case studies
  • Conclusion: Ties up loose ends and reemphasizes important takeaways

In my experience writing articles for beginners and experts alike, I found these elements indispensable when conveying complex topics articulately and professionally. Always keep them at hand when looking to produce written material.

How should you structure an article?

How should you structure an article?

Crafting a well-structured article is akin to assembling a puzzle – every piece has its place and purpose. Let’s look at how to create the perfect skeleton for your content.

The introduction is your article’s welcome mat. It should be inviting and informative, briefly outlining what a reader can expect from your writing. Additionally, it must instantly grab the readers’ attention so they feel compelled to continue reading. To master the art of creating effective introductions, remember these key points:

  • Keep it short and precise.
  • Use compelling hooks like quotes or intriguing facts.
  • State clearly what the article will cover without revealing everything upfront.

Moving on, you encounter the body of your piece. This segment expands on the ideas outlined in the introduction while presenting fresh subtopics related to your core story. If we compare article writing to crossing a bridge, each paragraph represents a step toward the other side (the conclusion). Here are some tips for maintaining orderliness within your body:

  • Stick closely to one idea per paragraph as it enhances readability.
  • Ensure paragraphs flow logically by utilizing transitional words or sentences.
  • Offer evidence or examples supporting your claims and reinforce credibility.

As you approach the far side of our imaginary bridge, we reach an equally essential section of the article known as the conclusion. At this point, you should be looking to wrap your message up neatly while delivering on what was initially promised during the introduction. This section summarizes the main points, providing closure and ensuring readers feel satisfied.

Remember this golden rule when writing the conclusion: follow the  “Describe what you’re going to tell them (Introduction), tell them (Body), and then summarize what you told them (Conclusion).”  It’s a proven formula for delivering informative, engaging, and well-structured articles. 

One final tip before moving on: maintaining an active voice significantly enhances clarity for your readers. It makes them feel like they’re participating actively in the story unfolding within your article. In addition, it helps ensure easy readability, which is vital for keeping your audience engaged.

Tips for Writing a Good Article

Tips for Writing a Good Article

A persuasive, engaging, and insightful article requires careful thought and planning. Half the battle won is by knowing how to start writing and make content captivating. Below are vital tips that can enhance your article writing skills.

Heading or Title

An audience’s first impression hinges on the quality of your title. A good heading should be clear, attention-grabbing, and give an accurate snapshot of what’s contained in the piece’s body. Here are a few guidelines on how to create an impactful title:

  • Make it Compelling: Your title needs to spark interest and motivate readers to delve further into your work.
  • Keep it concise: You want to have a manageable heading. Aim for brevity yet inclusiveness.
  • Optimize with keywords: To boost search engine visibility, sprinkle relevant keywords naturally throughout your title.

By applying these techniques, you can increase reader engagement right from the get-go.

Body of the Article

After winning over potential readers with your catchy title, it’s time to provide substantial content in the form of the body text. Here’s how articles are typically structured:

Introduction:  Begin by providing an appealing overview that hooks your audience and baits them to read more. You can ask poignant questions or share interesting facts about your topic here.

Main Content:  Build on the groundwork set by your introduction. Lay out detailed information in a logical sequence with clear articulation.

Conclusion:  This reemphasizes the critical points discussed in the body while delivering a lasting impression of why those points matter.

Remember that clarity is critical when drafting each part because our objective here is to share information and communicate effectively. Properly understanding this approach ensures that the writing experience becomes creative and productive.

Step By Step Guide for Article Writing

Step By Step Guide for Article Writing

How do you write an article that engages your readers from the first line until the last? That’s what most writers, whether beginners or seasoned pros are trying to achieve. I’ll describe a step-by-step process for crafting such gripping articles in this guide.

Step 1: Find Your Target Audience

First and foremost, identify your target readers. Speaking directly to a specific group improves engagement and helps you craft messages that resonate deeply. To pinpoint your audience:

  • Take note of demographic attributes like age, gender, and profession.
  • Consider their preferences and needs.
  • Look into how much knowledge they are likely to possess concerning your topic.

Knowing this will help you decide what tone, language, and style best suits your readers. Remember, by understanding your audience better, you make it much easier to provide them with engaging content.

Step 2: Select a Topic and an Attractive Heading

Having understood your audience, select a relevant topic based on their interests and questions. Be sure it’s one you can competently discuss. When deciding how to start writing an article, ensure it begins with a captivating title.

A title should hint at what readers will gain from the article without revealing everything. Maintain some element of intrigue or provocation. For example, ‘6 Essentials You Probably Don’t Know About Gardening’ instead of just ‘Gardening Tips’.

Step 3: Research is Key

Good research is crucial to building credibility for beginners and experts alike. It prevents errors that could tarnish your piece immensely.

Thoroughly explore relevant books, scholarly articles, or reputable online resources. Find facts that build authenticity while debunking misconceptions that relate to your topic. Take notes on critical points discovered during this process—it’ll save you time when creating your first draft.

Step 4: Write a Comprehensive Brief

Having done your research, it’s time to write an outline or a brief—a roadmap for your article. This conveys how articles are written systematically without losing track of the main points.

Begin by starting the introduction with a punchy opener that draws readers in and a summary of what they’ll glean from reading. Section out specific points and ideas as separate headings and bullet points under each section to form the body. A conclusion rounds things up by restating key takeaways.

Step 5: Write and Proofread

Now comes the bulk of the work—writing. Respect the brief created earlier to ensure consistency and structure while drafting content. Use short, clear sentences while largely avoiding jargon unless absolutely necessary.

Post-writing, proofread ardently to check for typographical errors, inconsistent tenses, and poor sentence structures—and don’t forget factual correctness! It helps to read aloud, which can reveal awkward phrases that slipped through initial edits.

Step 6: Add Images and Infographics

To break text monotony and increase comprehension, introduce visuals such as images, infographics, or videos into your piece. They provide aesthetic relief while supporting the main ideas, increasing overall engagement.

Remember to source royalty-free images or get permission for copyrighted ones—you don’t want legal battles later!

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Article Writing

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Article Writing

Regarding article writing, a few pitfalls can compromise the quality of your content. Knowing these and how to avoid them will enhance your work’s clarity, depth, and impact.

The first mistake often made is skimping on research. An article without solid underpinnings won’t merely be bland – it might mislead readers. Therefore, prioritize comprehensive investigation before penning down anything. Understanding common misconceptions or misinterpretations about your topic will strengthen your case. 

Next, sidestep unnecessary jargon or excessively complex language. While showcasing an impressive vocabulary might seem appealing, remember that your primary objective is imparting information efficiently and effectively.

Moreover, failing to structure articles effectively represents another standard error. A structured piece aids in delivering complex ideas coherently. Maintaining a logical sequence facilitates reader comprehension, whether explaining a detailed concept or narrating an incident.

A piece lacking aesthetic allure can fail its purpose regardless of the value of its text. That’s where images come into play. Neglecting them is an all-too-common mistake among beginners. Relevant pictures inserted at appropriate junctures serve as visual breaks from texts and stimulate interest among readers.

Lastly, proofreading is vital in determining whether you can deliver a well-written article. Typos and grammatical errors can significantly undermine professional credibility while disrupting a smooth reading experience.

So, when pondering how articles are written, avoiding these mistakes goes a long way toward producing high-quality content that embodies both substance and style. Remember: practice is paramount when learning how to write excellent material!

How to Write an Article with SEOwind AI Writer?

How to Write an Article with SEOwind AI Writer

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence has been a major step in many industries. One such significant tool is SEOwind AI Writer, which is critical for those curious about how to write an article leveraging AI. In this section, I’ll cover how you can effectively use SEOwind AI writer to create compelling articles.

Step 1: Create a Brief and Outline

The first step in writing an article revolves around understanding your audience’s interests and then articulating them in a comprehensive brief that outlines the content’s framework.

  • Decide on the topic: What ideas will you share via your article?
  • Define your audience: Knowing who will read your text significantly influences your tone, style, and content depth.
  • Establish main points: Highlight the key points or arguments you wish to exhibit in your drafted piece. This helps create a skeleton for your work and maintain a logical flow of information.

With SEOwind:

  • you get all the content and keyword research for top-performing content in one place,
  • you can generate a comprehensive AI outline with one click,
  • users can quickly create a title, description, and keywords that match the topic you’re writing about.

As insightful as it might seem, having a roadmap doubles as a guide throughout the creative process. SEOwind offers a user-friendly interface that allows the easy input of essential elements like keywords, title suggestions, content length, etc. These provide an insightful outline, saving time with an indispensable tool that demonstrates the practicality of article writing.

Step 2: Write an AI Article using SEOwind

Once you have a brief ready, you can write an AI article with a single click. It will consider all the data you provided and much more, such as copywriting and SEO best practices , to deliver content that ranks.

Step 3: Give it a Human Touch

Finally, SEOwind’s intuitive platform delivers impeccably constructed content to dispel any confusion about writing an article. The result is inevitably exceptional, with well-structured sentences and logically sequenced sections that meet your demands.

However, artificial intelligence can sometimes miss the unique personal touch that enhances relatability in communication—making articles more compelling. Let’s master adding individualistic charm to personalize articles so that they resonate with audiences.

Tailoring the AI-generated piece with personal anecdotes or custom inputs helps to break the monotony and bolster engagement rates. Always remember to tweak essential SEO elements like meta descriptions and relevant backlinks.

So, whether it’s enhancing casual language flow or eliminating robotic consistency, the slightest modifications can breathe life into the text and transform your article into a harmonious man-machine effort. Remember – it’s not just about technology making life easy but also how effectively we utilize this emerging trend!

Common Questions on how to write an article

Delving into the writing world, especially regarding articles, can often lead to a swarm of questions. Let’s tackle some common queries that newbies and seasoned writers frequently stumble upon to make your journey more comfortable and rewarding.

What is the easiest way to write an article?

The easiest way to write an article begins with a clear structure. Here are five simple steps you can follow:

  • Identify your audience: The first thing you should consider while planning your article is who will read it? Identifying your target audience helps shape the article’s content, style, and purpose.
  • Decide on a topic and outline: Determining what to write about can sometimes be a formidable task. Try to ensure you cover a topic you can cover effectively or for which you feel great passion. Next, outline the main points you want to present throughout your piece.
  • Do the research: Dig deep into resources for pertinent information regarding your topic and gather as much knowledge as possible. An informed writer paves the way for a knowledgeable reader.
  • Drafting phase: Begin with an engaging introduction followed by systematically fleshing out each point from your outline in body paragraphs before ending with conclusive remarks tying together all the earlier arguments.
  • Fine-tune through editing and proofreading: Errors happen no matter how qualified or experienced a writer may be! So make sure to edit and proofread before publishing.

Keep these keys in mind and remain patient and persistent. There’s no easier alternative for writing an article.

How can I write an article without knowing about the topic?

We sometimes need to write about less familiar subjects – but do not fret! Here’s my approach:

  • First off, start by thoroughly researching subject-centric reliable sources. The more information you have, the better poised you are to write confidently about it.
  • While researching, take notes and highlight the most essential points.
  • Create an outline by organizing these points logically – this essentially becomes your article’s backbone.
  • Start writing based on your research and outlined structure. If certain aspects remain unclear, keep investigating until clarity prevails.

Getting outside your comfort zone can be daunting, but is also a thrilling chance to expand your horizons.

What is your process for writing an article quickly?

In terms of speed versus quality in writing an article – strikingly enough, they aren’t mutually exclusive. To produce a high-quality piece swiftly, adhere to the following steps:

  • Establish purpose and audience: Before cogs start turning on phrase-spinning, be clear on why you’re writing and who will likely read it.
  • Brainstorm broadly, then refine: Cast a wide net initially regarding ideas around your topic. Then, narrow down those areas that amplify your core message or meet objectives.
  • Create a robust outline: A detailed roadmap prevents meandering during actual writing and saves time!
  • Ignore perfection in the first draft: Speed up initial drafting by prioritizing getting your thoughts on paper over perfect grammar or sentence compositions.
  • Be disciplined with edits and revisions: Try adopting a cut, shorten, and replace mantra while trimming fluff without mercy!

Writing quickly requires practice and strategic planning – but rest assured, it’s entirely possible!

Tom Winter

Seasoned SaaS and agency growth expert with deep expertise in AI, content marketing, and SEO. With SEOwind, he crafts AI-powered content that tops Google searches and magnetizes clicks. With a track record of rocketing startups to global reach and coaching teams to smash growth, Tom's all about sharing his rich arsenal of strategies through engaging podcasts and webinars. He's your go-to guy for transforming organic traffic, supercharging content creation, and driving sales through the roof.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What is an Article?
  • 2 Objectives of Article Writing
  • 3 What is the Format of an Article?
  • 4 What Should Be in an Article?
  • 5 How should you structure an article?
  • 6 Tips for Writing a Good Article
  • 7 Step By Step Guide for Article Writing
  • 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Article Writing
  • 9 How to Write an Article with SEOwind AI Writer?
  • 10 Common Questions on how to write an article

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  • How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:

  • Read the text
  • Break it down into sections
  • Identify the key points in each section
  • Write the summary
  • Check the summary against the article

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).

Table of contents

When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about summarizing.

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material
  • To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read
  • To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review

When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.

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You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

  • Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
  • Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
  • Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and reread any particularly important or difficult passages.

There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

  • Start by reading the abstract . This already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
  • Pay attention to headings and subheadings . These should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
  • Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: What did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Examples of article summaries

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

Citing the source you’re summarizing

When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

  • You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
  • You haven’t missed any essential information
  • The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.

If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing


  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Want to make your life super easy? Try our free text summarizer today!

A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.

You might have to write a summary of a source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to prove you understand the material
  • For your own use, to keep notes on your reading
  • To provide an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
  • In a paper , to summarize or introduce a relevant study

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.

An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.

All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-summarize/

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Other students also liked, how to paraphrase | step-by-step guide & examples, how to quote | citing quotes in apa, mla & chicago, the basics of in-text citation | apa & mla examples.


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