Articles are the basic element of academic writing. Most other publications are based on articles as structuring element:
- A good monograph is often articulated into chapters that mirror the structure of an article.
- Book chapters and sections follow the structure of an article.
- The basic structure of an article is the point of departure to write a good research proposal.
To be accounted for, academic publications must have an ISSN or ISBN – or (more recently) a DOI, with some caveats. If the journal or publisher does not have a ISSN/ISBN, one should not publish with them. Another point to consider is that publications are all equal, but some publications are more equal than others. A peer-reviewed article counts much more than a book section. Remember their hierarchy to allocate your time investments strategically. In general, a publication strategy should follow four main rules:
- identifier rule: If it has no ISBN or ISSN, your publication is (almost) worthless.
- peer assessment rule: If it is not peer-reviewed, your publication is (practically) worthless.
- priority rule: Monographs are queens, articles are princes, and the rest is the court.
- self-plagiarism rule: You can refer to but never repeat what you have published already in a new publication (and evidently, you never have to plagiarise someone else).
This leads to three main pieces of advice about what to publish in the early stages of an academic career:
- Give priority to articles instead of chapters: they are worth much more.
- Make sure that you do not waste fundamental aspects of your (future) book with articles.
- Be gradually selective: you need to nourish your CV with publications but, as you advance with your career, be more and more selective.
Research articles in the fields of philosophy and history of philosophy all share the same structure. Each section of the article responds to different aims that need to be duly considered when writing your paper.
Make people read your article
Body of the article
Make people agree with your interpretation
Make people consult the data you used
Academic texts constitute a genre. As with any literary genres, academic articles, too, respond to some topical features: what a reader expects to find in your and any other academic articles in terms of structure, style, and method:
- structure: the internal order of an article and its constituting elements
- style: the linguistic register and stylistic nuances typical of academia
- method: the methodology employed in the article
Structure and style quasi-generic features that are common to all or most of academic texts (humanities). Method, instead, is a specific feature: indeed, the methodology depends on discipline, domain, and context.
You have to give to the reader what she expects from your article! You can add some unexpected elements (even an awe-inspiring moment) and use your own style (providing the article with authenticity). But always remember that your paper needs to meet the formal criteria of structure and style to be acknowledged as scientific article. Indeed, genre belonging requires the adherence to its acknowledged topical features.
According to (LaPlaca, Lindgrees, and Vanhammed 2018), the introduction of an article has four main functions, which are the following:
- To present the research question or purpose of your article.
- To establish the frame of reference.
- To identify your contribution to the debate.
- To justify the relevance of your article.
Evidently, it is far more than a mere “introduction”. In particular, the introduction should always include three main parts, which are:
Setting of your article
Problem whose solution is aimed
How you achieve your aim
The opening of your introduction must give some preliminary context to the reader. To do so, you should answer to two questions:
- What is the context of your research?
- What are the limitations of existing interpretations?
You have to offer the theoretical context of your research question and place your contribution in the ongoing debate. Try to make as clear as possible:
- How your position differs from others
- What positions and assumptions you challenge
Your references to secondary literature should be selective and concise. Give only the main points you need to persuade the reader of your paper’s originality and impact.
The research question is the very heart of your article: it is the reason why you are writing it in the first place. You have to treat it accordingly. Accordingly, the research question is the main focus of your paper: everything depends on it! Once you have provided your reader with the context of your research, you may present your research question. It answers the following questions: what do you want to achieve? Remember to introduce your research question in a concise, clear, and appealing way.
The Writing Center of George Mason University defines the research question as follows: “A research question is the question around which you center your research. It should be: Clear: it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation. Focused: it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows. Concise: it is expressed in the fewest possible words. Complex: it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer. Arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.”
After having presented your goal, you will have to indicate the procedure you are going to adopt to demonstrate your claim: your procedural steps. The latter corresponds to answering the following question: how do you intend to achieve your aim? These procedural steps will have to coincide with the sections of your article, reflecting its internal structure while introducing the overall procedure you have adopted.
The body of the article is the main part of any article. It corresponds to your treatment of the research question following the procedural steps that you have presented in the introduction.Bodies of the article differ according to the disciplinary context, methodology adopted, and individual research style. Always remember that the way you structure the body of your article speaks of your approach, methods, and style!
Notwithstanding the differences among methods, disciplinary contexts, and research styles, a few tips may be worthwhile:
- be coherent: make sure that your procedural steps and what you do in the article coincide!
- crave for order: articulate your article into sections (always) and subsections (if it is long enough) considering that each section (introduction and conclusions not included) should be at least 1500 words. Each section should be related to the procedural steps (and ordered accordingly).
- stay focused: do not add sections that are not directly linked to your research question.
- keep the narrative flowing: by using appropriate methods and style, you should keep the reader interested in your paper from introduction to conclusions.
Conclusions are not a mere summary of what you have said in your article. The reader has just finished reading your article: there is no need to detail again everything that you have just said. Try to limit yourself to discussing:
- the main theoretical claims that you have offered (using the past tense).
- how your hypothesis, interpretation, or solution may help the ongoing debate.
Conclusions are not an epilogue either. Although you may use persuasive tools in your article, you should not end it with inflated claims, like assuming that your contribution has ‘solved it all’. In general (and with some humility), papers should be considered as openings instead of closings: try to point out how your contribution can be valuable in other contexts. Be resolute, but never arrogant!
Karin De Boer, Guidelines on Writing Articles (KU Leuven, CS, 2020).
Peter LaPlaca, Adam Lindgreen, & Joëlle Vanhammed, “How to write really good articles for premier academic journals”, Industrial Marketing Management 68 (2018): 202-209.
Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).
“How to Write a Research Question“, The Writing Center of George Mason University (consulted on 19 October 2022).
Latest update: October 2022