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Conduct a Literature Review

A guide to walk you through the process of doing a literature review

Anatomy of a Journal Article

Understanding more about the structure of a journal article helps you strategize your reading. 

Here is an example to illustrate the typical structure of a scholarly article. 

Article source: Suen, L. K. P., Lung, V. Y. T., Boost, M. V., Au-Yeung, C. H., & Siu, G. K. H. (2019). Microbiological evaluation of different hand drying methods for removing bacteria from washed hands. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 13754.  (CC BY 4.0)

Structure of a Scholarly Article:

Scholarly articles usually have lengthy and very specific titles.
Lists all authors' names, indicates the corresponding author, and their affiliated institution or organization. Sometimes Affiliations are listed at the bottom of the first page.

Briefly describes:

  • Purpose of the study (Why)
  • Methodology (How)
  • Key findings (What they found)
  • Conclusion (What it means)


  • explains motivation and importance of research
  • provides background information

Literature Review

  • reviews previous research on the topic (what is already known)
  • identifies research gaps (what is not yet known)
  • helps establish context for the research presented in the paper (how this work addresses the gap)

Sometimes Introduction and Literature Review are written in two separate sections.

Describes how the research was conducted. Normally include:

  • experimental design, techniques, materials/ participants
  • procedure to replicate the data collection and analysis process

Summarizes significant findings of their research.

Usually include Figures or Tables to illustrate the findings in a compact and easy-to-view format. 

  • interprets main findings in relation to data and existing studies
  • explains how the results support the conclusions

Summarizes main findings, implications, or limitations.

May also include a Future Work section to suggest areas where further research is needed.

Lists other research works used in the paper in a consistent citation style. 

Commonly seen sections:

Acknowledgments: lists Funding sources; shows gratitude to any other support on the research. 

Author Contributions: describes the contribution of each author.

Conflict of Interest: declares if the authors have any financial, commercial, legal, or professional relationship with other organizations or people that could influence the research. 

For Open Access articles, often there will be a disclaimer to indicate the license for reusing the work (e.g. CC BY).

Disclaimer: Each scholarly article is different, and different disciplines emphasize different components. Some of the above components might be missing from your article, in a different order, or your article might include components not mentioned above. That’s okay! You can still use what you already know to help figure out any new sections you encounter.

Adapted from Reading Academic Articles - Anatomy of an Academic Article (University of Washington Libraries)