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Political Science 302: Writing in Political Science: What's a Research Article?

An online course guide for researching topics in the field of political science for POLISCI 302

Research Article Elements

What are the parts of a typical "IMRaD" article reporting empirical* research? Research articles in many disciplines, such as the natural and social sciences, are often arranged into these sections, although these exact headers may not be used:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction - Introduces the problem, provides background including review of relevant literature, states hypotheses, and maybe why this study is needed (Why is this important?)
  • Methods or Methodology - Defines the subjects, procedures, etc. well enough for evaluation and replication by others (What was done?)
  • Results or Findings - Summarizes data and statistical test(s) well enough to support conclusions (What was found?)
  • Discussion - Evaluates and interprets results, especially pertaining to the hypotheses, and may suggest future research or implications for policy or practice (What does it mean?)
  • References

*empirical adjective: based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic  (source: New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition)

For more information, see the current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (copy at the Reference Desk) or "Writing Empirical Psychology Papers (For Beginners)" (