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Health Subject Guide — Understand Research Articles

Research Guide for Health, including Allied Health and Nursing

Understand Research Articles

Research articles are the main type of primary source documents in the health sciences. They can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed method (a combination of quantitative and qualitative).

Research designs and protocols are chosen based on the purpose of the study. However, all studies have weaknesses and limitations, which must be considered when analyzing research articles.

Considerations when reading a research article:

  • Does the research design fit the question?
  • What was the size of the population studied (# of subjects)?
  • Were all subjects in the trial properly accounted for (# that started vs finished)?
  • If human subjects were used, was the trial double blinded (researcher and subject were blind to the intervention)?
  • What are the results?
  • Are the results valid and relevant?
  • Were the researchers biased?
  • Is it applicable/will it help my population?


Structure of a Research Article

A research article is similar to a laboratory report; it describes the purpose, methods, and results of the study, as well as a discussion of findings. 


Structure of a research article:

Title Page

  • Author(s)
  • Corresponding Author
  • Conflicts fo Interest

Abstract or Summary of the research

Introduction: Why was the study done?

  • Problem & Purpose
  • Literature Review

Methods:  Describes how they did the study

  • Population (human subjects, patients, or animals or both)
  • Data collection (or Instruments)
  • Interventions
  • Sample
  • Specify the study design
  • Study variables

Results - What did the researchers find?

  • Data collection
  • Participants
  • Key findings
  • Secondary findings


  • Main findings
  • Data analysis
  • Strengths and limitations of the study       

Conclusions or Comments:

  • Significance of study or implications for future research