Tips for Writing a Journal Article

Disseminating your research in the form of a peer-reviewed journal article will enable your RWHAP peers to more easily find effective models to implement in their work to end the HIV epidemic. These tips, developed by the Center for Innovation and Engagement (CIE) – a NASTAD project under the HRSA-funded Evidence-Informed Approaches Initiative – provides a framework and guidance to help you craft a manuscript for an original journal article. Other types of journal articles include review articles, commentaries, and perspectives. Please see below for a summary of each type of article.

When submitting a manuscript for consideration, be sure to check the requirements and standards of the journal to which you are submitting your work. Every journal has its own design and layout standards, and these tips are not exhaustive. Perusing a journal’s articles will give you an idea of how to organize your writing. Some journals may request that you send in a letter of intent with an outline before submitting a full manuscript.

Original Articles
Original articles are detailed studies reporting original or primary research and are classified as primary literature. Original research articles typically have a word limit ranging from about 3,000 to 7,000 words depending on the journal.

Review Articles
Review articles provide critical and constructive analysis of existing published literature in a field through summary, analysis, and comparison. These articles often identify gaps or problems and provide recommendations for future research. Review articles typically fall into one of three categories: literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Review articles can be of varying lengths depending upon the journal and subject area and can range from 3,000 to 40,000 words.

Commentary Articles
Commentaries present a balanced viewpoint on an area of research or a specific field within a larger discipline, or discuss current advances and future directions. They typically do not have a methods section and are shorter than review articles.

Perspective Articles
Perspective is a format for relatively short (usually ≤3000 words) scholarly discussions of research that are either too technical for a commentary or advocate a controversial position or a speculative hypothesis or discuss work primarily from one group.

After receiving a manuscript, the journal editor typically reviews to ensure that it adheres to the journal’s style, that the content is within the journal’s purview, and that the type of article is appropriate for the journal. If a manuscript is inappropriate, the editor informs the author. Otherwise, the author can expect the manuscript to undergo peer review, which means the article is reviewed by one or more experts who are considered to be experts in the field. Peer review is used to maintain quality standards, provide credibility and determine an article’s suitability for publication. The peer review process can vary in length, but authors can typically anticipate a response regarding publication decisions within 2–3 months.

The guidance below for each section of an original article is written in a standard format which you may need to change depending on each journal’s submission requirements.

Journal Article Title: Subtitle

Name Surname, Degree1, Name Surname, Degree2, Name Surname, Degree3
1Title, University or Organization Affiliation
2Title, University or Organization Affiliation
3Title, University or Organization Affiliation

Far more readers typically read the abstract than the article. It summarizes the hypotheses, design, and findings of the study and represents the article in indexing databases. A well-written abstract that conveys the research questions and findings succinctly can entice readers to learn more. Readers frequently decide whether to delve further into an article based on the abstract.

  • Keep the length to 150-250 words without references.
  • Summarize the key elements from your article.
  • Identify your key research question(s).
  • Briefly describe your research methods.
  • Describe the significant results of your study.
  • Tell the reader why your study and results matter. [1] [2]

Keywords: List of keywords separated by semi-colons

A strong introduction engages the reader in the problem of interest and provides context for the research question. It answers why you chose this topic for research, why it is important, and why you adopted a particular method or approach. The introduction should:

  • Give background information and set the stage by describing the research problem you considered or the research question you asked. In the main body of the paper, you will offer the solution to the problem or the answer to the question.
  • Briefly review any other solutions or approaches that have previously been tried.
  • Provide a clear rationale for why the problem deserves new research and point out the gap in knowledge that the rest of the paper will fill.
  • Briefly lay out your objectives and describe your goal. Remember, you will include specific details later in the paper. [1]

The methods section of a research paper is the basis for the credibility of the work. Clearly provide a thorough description of your recruitment methods, participant characteristics, measures, and procedures. Explain the research design and plan for analysis, noting if groups were randomly assigned and if variables within or between participants were explored. The methods section should include:

  • Descriptions of equipment and materials used, variables studied, actions or reactions of the participants, ethical approval, analysis and statistical tools used, and measures (including notation of their reliability and validity).
  • Description of participants, including number of participants, their geographical location, age ranges, sex, and medical history, if relevant. State that written informed consent was provided by each participant.
  • Description of how your sample size or number of participants was decided and what techniques were used to recruit participants.
  • Description of necessary preparations (e.g., tissue samples, drugs) and instruments.
  • Details about when the study was done, where, how data were collected, type of study (e.g., cross-sectional, comparative, randomized, etc.).
  • Timeframes to ensure that the procedures are clear (e.g., Participants were given X drug for X days). [1] [3]

The results section of an original research article represents the core findings of the study. It includes a summary of the collected data and analyses. Describe all results, including unexpected findings. The results section should include:

  • Data presented in tables, charts, graphs, and other figures.
  • A contextual analysis of the data explaining its meaning in narrative form.
  • Descriptive statistics and tests of significance such as null hypothesis testing, effect sizes, confidence intervals, inferential statistics, and supplementary analyses.

One logical and clear method of organizing your results is to provide them alongside the research questions—restate your research question, present data that address that research question, and share the corresponding results.[1] [4]

In the discussion section, evaluate and interpret the findings. Begin with a statement of support or nonsupport for the original hypotheses based on the findings. If the hypotheses were not supported, consider other explanations. In interpreting results, consider sources of bias and other threats to internal validity, imprecision of measures, the overall number of tests or overlap among tests, effect sizes, and other study weaknesses.

The discussion section should:

  • Explore the relationship between the results and the original hypotheses (i.e., whether they support the hypotheses or cause them to be rejected or modified.)
  • Compare your results with those of previous studies and explain unexpected results and observations.

Be careful not to repeat detailed descriptions of the data and results in the discussion. Conclude with a description of limitations and the importance of the findings. Offer recommendations for further study, if needed. [1] [2]

This section is where you can acknowledge those who have assisted in carrying out the research. Funding from the government or other agencies with prepublication mandates should be clearly indicated in the acknowledgments section. [5]

Author Disclosure Statement
Disclose any potential conflicts of interest for each author.

Add your references to this section. There are multiple ways to cite depending on a journal’s preference. You can utilize online tools to help you cite sources or Microsoft Word’s citation function.

[1] Mack C. How to Write a Good Scientific Paper. 1st Ed. Washington: SPIE; 2018.
[2] Shah J. Science of writing for publication in scientific journals: steps and resources. J Patan Academy of Health Sciences [Internet]. 2020 Dec. [cited 2021 Jul. 27]; 7(3):1-5. Available from:
[3] Shah J. How to write ‘method’ in scientific journal article. J Patan Academy of Health Sciences [Internet]. 2015 Dec. 1 [cited 2021 Jul. 27];2(2):1-2. Available from:
[4] Writing the Results Section for a Research Paper [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 27]. Available from:
[5] Why is it important to include Acknowledgement in writing a research paper? [Internet]. [cited 2021 July 22] Available from: