11 julio, 2024

Scientific article: what it is, characteristics, structure, examples

What is a scientific article?

A scientific article or paper It is a document obtained in an investigation carried out on a particular subject. Said document is presented in written form, and the format will depend on the standard used to carry it out.

Likewise, the purpose of these articles is to be published in scientific journals or books, to provide clarity or introduce new discoveries in the scientific community, which broaden the knowledge of said topics.

Scientific articles must be carried out through original research and the results must be expressed in a precise and brief way, justifying at all times the obtaining of the same.

However, they are often based on previous studies and research, which must be correctly cited in the text. These investigations are used to contrast the results of the new investigation and establish the differences and similarities found.

Characteristics of scientific articles

Some of the main characteristics of a scientific article or paper are:


A scientific article can be based on research already published by other researchers, but it must be original and include new information based on the author’s own research. Its purpose is to disseminate new information on a topic of academic or scientific interest.


Although scientific articles are aimed at a specific audience, the clarity of the text allows the reader to quickly understand what is intended to be expressed.


The hierarchy of the content and its correct arrangement in the article give it an order that benefits its interpretation.


Scientific articles are made from reliable data and research, that is, they have been taken appropriately, without errors or biases.


In order to convey exactly what is intended, the words used must be specific, so there is no room for confusion.

citations and references

Since various sources and investigations are used to prepare scientific articles, all of these must be correctly cited and referenced, following the style of the standard chosen for its preparation.

Theoretical foundation

All data and conclusions expressed in the article must be substantiated.

Produces advances and new knowledge

All scientific articles must introduce new knowledge or discoveries that can be used by the scientific community.

Structure of a scientific article

The basic structure of a scientific article follows the logic of what is known as the IMRyD format, whose name comes from the acronym Introduction, Method, Result and Discussion. However, there are other equally important parts, which are exposed below.

The arrangement of the structure is made as follows:


Despite the fact that in principle it is the shortest part of a scientific article, it does not lose importance for that. The title is the first thing a reader sees, it is also the reference with which they will search the internet, databases and repositories.

In general, they do not have more than 15 words, and in these the content of the article must be summarized, without losing the objective. Usually, the use of acronyms is not recommended, except those that are popular knowledge, thus making it possible for people who are not specialized in the same area to understand it.

In case you need to use more than 15 words, it is recommended to use a title and, followed by a colon, a subtitle.

Author or authors

The author or authors who have participated in the writing of the article must be identified, both for recognition and for their credibility.

The way in which the surnames and first names of the authors appear depends on the style of the standard by which the article is prepared. However, usually the full last name and initials of the name are listed, although in some cases full names are listed.


The summary or «abstract» should include a synthesis of the objectives of the article, the methodology used, the results obtained and its conclusions, so that the reader knows what the article contains.

It is very important, since for the digital versions they are the first thing that is presented before downloading the full article, that is why they are usually not more than 150 words. Additionally, specialized magazines ask that it be written in the original language and, generally, in English.


They are a series of words that are entered in the article, which are used to search the databases. Usually between 3 and 10 are selected, and they are separated by a comma.


It is usually considered as the first part of the article and it is where the question is presented: why was the work carried out?, together with the current situation in the studied field, aspects that previous articles do not make clear, and its objectives.

It must be brief, and it must not include the results of the investigation, nor the conclusions.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework explains the theories and concepts that exist on the subject to be treated. For example, an article on COVID-19 would mention information about associated diseases, about what is reliably known about this disease, and about the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Materials and methodology

This section refers to the materials and methods used to carry out the research. It consists of the following parts:

Design: where the research design is detailed.
Population covered: explains from which sectors the samples have been taken.
Around: refers to the place where the research was carried out.
Interventions: This section explains the techniques and instruments used.
Statistic analysis: This is where it becomes clear which programs were used, along with their versions, and what statistical tests were used to examine the data.


Due to the brevity and consistency in which the data is expressed, this section is usually the shortest in the article. Usually it begins with a precise sentence in which the result of the investigation is exposed. Then, different findings from the investigation can be commented.

Even the use of graphs can be useful in facilitating the interpretation of the results.


It is one of the most read sections, since here the question of the introduction is answered and the evidence that confirms it is presented. In addition, comparisons are made with results obtained in other studies, highlighting similarities and differences.


This section is used to mention and recognize the institutions and people who have collaborated in the study.


It is the final section, it is used to locate the references of the citations created in the text. Their location is done taking into account the standard used to make the article.

It is important to make good use of references, both to give recognition to the authors who are cited, and to enable the reader to refer to said sources.

How to cite a scientific article

Below are several examples of citations to scientific articles in APA and Vancouver styles.

APA style

In this style, the citations arranged in the text have the author’s last name(s) and the year in which the article was published. Likewise, the citation can be textual or indirect.

Here are some examples:

Example of a literal quote with less than 40 words

Seckel and Font (2020) stated «the importance of using ICs and using them as tools for reflecting on their own practice is recognized» (p.140).

Example of a literal quote with more than 40 words

Bonilla, Villamil, Rabaan and Rodríguez (2020) indicated:

Studies have shown that they are single-stranded RNA viruses that are easy to mutate, which increases the diversity of species and gives them the ability to quickly adapt to new hosts. These animals could amplify the virus and spread it through secretions and feces. The cases of SARS-CoV and COVID-19 are caused by contact with animals obtained in a market. (p.109).

Example of an indirect citation with two authors

Haines and Mihailoff (2019) show that injuries suffered in the brain have repercussions on different extremities of the human body.

Example of an indirect citation with three authors

In a recent study, from the year 2019, it is shown how psychological well-being is related to anxiety in couples that cannot reproduce (Álvarez, Hernández and Rodríguez).

vancouver style

In Vancouver style, citations are represented by numbers, which change as new citations are introduced. In addition, the number can be arranged between parentheses, between square brackets or as a superscript.

If the citation is literal, the text must be placed in quotation marks, followed by the citation number. On the other hand, if the citation is indirect, the author or authors are named, then the number corresponding to the citation, and finally the text.

The citation numbers are represented in the reference list, at the end of the work, describing where said information was obtained.

Here are some examples:

“The importance of using ICs and using them as tools for reflecting on their own practice is recognized” (6).

Example of an indirect quote with an author

Neubauer [1] recognizes that measures must be taken that contemplate ethics and human dignity for the education of refugee minors, leaving aside political differences.

Example of indirect citation with two authors

Haines et al. (3) show that injuries suffered in the brain have repercussions in different extremities of the human body.

Examples of scientific articles

In the following links you can find recent scientific articles:

Climate change and the challenge of global warming

Quick review: air pollution and morbidity and mortality from Covid-19

Education for climate change: educate about climate or for change?


Cargill, M., & O’Connor, P. (2009). Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps. Retrieved from rauterberg.employee.id.tue.nl
Department of Biology, Bates College. (2011). The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Retrieved from abacus.bates.edu
Foundation of the Autonomous University of Madrid. (2012). Tips and suggestions for writing scientific articles. Retrieved from fuam.es
Lam Diaz, R. (2016). Writing a scientific article. Retrieved from scielo.sld.cu

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