Scientists and social scientists conduct research and usually want to share their findings with other scholars. This is especially true for those working at universities and other public or non-profit research institutions.
The primary means of disseminating research findings is through peer-reviewed journals (sometimes referred to as scholarly journals or academic journals). The idea is that, before any study is published, it will be carefully reviewed by two or more scholars who are familiar with that type of research. Here's basically how it works:
Researchers conduct a study.
The researchers identify a suitable journal, based on the other articles that have been published in the journal.
The researchers submit an article manuscript to the journal.
The journal editor distributes the article manuscript to others who are able to critique it (reviewers).
The reviewers make recommendations to the editor:
Accept it as is
Accept it if the authors make certain changes
Reject it (which happens a lot)
If changes are needed, the editor will let the authors know.
The authors then make the needed changes before the article is published.
Once published, the article will be part of the body of scientific literature and will most likely be cited by students in their papers or by other scholars in their articles.
Anatomy of Peer-Reviewed Research Article (Sciences and Social Sciences)
Most peer-reviewed articles in the sciences and social sciences follow the following structure:
Abstract: a brief summary of what they did and what they found
Introduction: an overview of the topic, including related studies that have been conducted
Methods: an explanation of how the study was conducted so that others could reproduce it
Results: a presentation of the data from their study
Discussion & Conclusion: a discussion of the significance of the results and the limitations of the study
References: the sources that they used when writing the paper
Appendix: additional information that is useful but not needed in the main body of the article
Peer-reviewed journals may also contain what are known as Review Articles. These do not present original research but instead provide a scholarly overview of previously published studies. They have an abstract and references, but other section titles will be different.
The following are examples of these types of peer-reviewed articles:
Freedman, D. A., Flocke, S., Shon, E.-J., Matlack, K., Trapl, E., Ohri-Vachaspati, P., Osborne, A., & Borawski, E. (2017). Farmers’ Market Use Patterns Among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Recipients With High Access to Farmers’ Markets. Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior, 49(5), 397–404. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2017.01.007