Format for a Journal Article


I.          Title Page: The title page includes the title, the authors and their institutions, and the date of submission.

II.        Abstract: This will summarize the entire article.  Check with the “instructions to authors” to determine the maximum number of words allowd.  It will generally be on the order of 350 words.  The content of this section will be one to four lines each for introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion.

III.      Introduction:  This section tells the reader why your work was needed in the broader context of the general problem.  You should not attempt to review everything related to the general problem, but rather to provide enough background for the reader to understand the need for your research.  Start with a general statement of the problem itself, making sure that the reader understands the importance of the problem.  Next, discuss what is lacking in our understanding of the problem and what new information needs to be obtained.  Finally, make a statement as to what you plan to do in your work.  What hypotheses are to be tested, and how they will be tested.  Describe any information required for the reader to understand the methods that you use. (Estimated length, 1 to 2 pages).

IV.      Methods: This section will explain in detail how you designed your experimental setup and performed the experiment, and how you analyzed the data.  Subsections will include:

1.     Experimental design.   Describe all information, both structural and functional, about 1) the equipment you have used,  2) how the equipment was assembled together, 3) protocols for an reagents that need to be generated, and 4) protocols for the experiments themselves.  Be as detailed as possible.  Include dimensions, materials, any computer algorithms or software used.  State the source for each piece of equipment used and for critical reagents or test kits.  Use the following subsections for this part of your report.

(a)  Functional description: Include neat and fully labeled engineering drawings of the experimental apparatus and of its major components.

(b)  Subsystems: Describe any subsystems in the device, how they operate and what their purpose is.  Some systems may have many subsystems.  Some may have none.

(c)  Theoretical Analysis: Explain the quantitative theory you have used to analyze your data.  You can be terse about any theory that has to do with off-the-shelf components of your system.

(d)  Construction:  How is the experiment put together?  Provide a list of parts.  Be specific about materials, techniques to be used and associated costs.

2.     Testing: Describe what tests you performed on the apparatus to ensure that it works properly.  Results of your testing will be stated later in the “Results” section.

3.     Statistical Analysis: Describe any statistical analysis that will be performed on the data.  Remember that any description of hypothesis testing must include the specific data to be used in the test.  For example, if you are using a student’s T test to compare means, state what two data sets will be compared. (Estimated length 2-3 pages)

IV.      Results: Where appropriate, compare measured data to theoretical curves.  Depict your measured data as individual data points and your theoretical curves as lines on your graphs.  Remember that pictures are more readily understood than words, but words are needed to orient the reader to the pictures.  Graphs are preferred over tables.  Be sure to have descriptive figure captions for all of your graphs.  Include enough information in the figure caption that the reader can understand the overall point of the graph without referring to the text. (Estimated length 2-3 pages)

V.        Discussion: Discuss the experiments.

1.     What did you set out to do, and why?

2.     To what extent do your experimental results agree with your theoretical analysis?

3.     How could you modify your theoretical analysis to more accurately model your design?

4.     What can be done to clarify any discrepancies in the data?

5.     What additional testing could you do with this apparatus or with another apparatus that would be relevant to the questions proposed in your introduction?

6.     What new information have you obtained in your experiment (other than proving/disproving your hypothesis).  While it is great to have proven your hypothesis, it is the unexpected results from an experiment that are the most interesting.  They raise new questions for future experiments. (Estimated length, 2-3 pages)

VI.      Conclusions: Draw conclusions about the original hypothesis. (Estimated length ¼ to ½ page).

VII.    Future work: Where do you go from here with the project? (Estimated length ¼ to ½ page).

VIII.  Acknowledgements: You should have a good number of people to acknowledge in your project.  Do not acknowledge co-authors.  They are already acknowledged by being listed on the title page.

IX.      References  You will need to refer to the “instructions to authors” for the specific format required.  Some journals will want you to use (Author, Date) citation format, while others will want you to reference articles by number.  In this specific case, please use the format (Author, Date) to cite references within your text.  Provide complete citations for journal articles and other resources.  Journal articles should be listed as:


Jackson RA, Windsor DO and Varma R, “Conceptual model for the diffusion of helium into the alveola,” Journal of Undersea Respiration, 4:35-44, 2003.


where 4:35-44 represents the volume number (4) followed by the inclusive page numbers (35-44), and 2003 is the year of publication.


X.        Appendices: Appendices as appropriate to your project (e.g.detailed theoretical derivations, additional data that is important but not necessary to the overall thrust of your paper, etc.).  Appendices are rare in journal articles, so be conservative in their use.

XI.      Figure Captions

XII.    Table Captions

XIII.  Figures and Tables:  Most journals will not want them to be embedded within the text.  Rather, they should be placed at the end of the article, one figure per page.