article writing 101
a suggested outline for qualitative work
Abstract (250 words or less)
State your research question
Explain how this research question speaks to a larger theoretical puzzle or gap in the literature
Describe the data that you use to answer your research question
State what you find
Describe what these findings suggest about the answer to your research question
Explain why these findings are important
Introduction (3 paragraphs)
Describe the puzzle or gap in the literature that you will address with your data
What do we know?
What do we not know?
What will you tell us?
Identify your research question and explain how you answer it
What question will you answer?
What data will you use to answer this question?
What do you find?
Explain the importance of your findings
What is the answer to your research question?
How does this answer broaden, clarify, or challenge existing knowledge/theories?
Justification (1,000 words or less)
Restate the puzzle or gap in the literature that you will address
Explain why this puzzle or gap is important to address
Describe (in more detail than in the intro) what we know about this topic/issue
Describe (in more detail than in the intro) what we do not know about this topic/issue
State your research question
(i.e., “In light of these lingering questions, I seek to examine…”)
Explain how your research question solves the puzzle or fills the gap in the literature
(i.e., “Answering this question allows me to…”)
*Note: The point of a literature review is not actually to review all of the relevant literature. The point is to make the case for why your study is important.
Methods (4-6 short paragraphs)
Provide a brief overview of the study.
Describe your research site, why you chose it, and how you gained access
Describe your research participants (the people you observed)
Discuss your role in the field and how your identity shaped your observations
Describe the fieldwork you conducted and the data you collected
Describe how you analyzed the data you collected
Describe the limitations of your study
(i.e., explain how your study is limited by your methodological choices)
State your argument
Identify 2-3 supporting points – how your data support your argument
Identify 2-3 patterns in the data that provide evidence for each supporting point
For each pattern:
Describe an example from your data that typifies this pattern
Provide a brief fieldnote excerpt for that example
Briefly explain how this example represents the larger pattern
Briefly explain how this pattern provides evidence for the supporting point
*Note: Everything that you include in your analysis should directly support your argument, and that argument should be the answer to your research question. A clear structure (with topic sentences and transitions) is very important for writing an analysis that meets this goal.
Discussion/Conclusion (1,000 words or less)
Summarize your findings
Remind readers of the puzzle/gap in the literature that you are trying to solve
Remind readers of the specific research question that you have answered
Briefly review what you found
Briefly explain what these findings imply about the answer to your research question
Discuss the implications of your findings
Explain how your findings solve the puzzle or fill the gap in the literature
Explain how the resolution of this gap/puzzle helps to clarify, challenge, or expand existing knowledge or theory
Using existing literature, explain why your findings are or are not surprising
Identify possible explanations for your findings
Use existing research to discuss the most likely explanation for your findings
Consider alternative explanations for your findings and explain (using your data and/or other research) why these alternative explanations do or do not seem plausible
Conclude by reviewing why these findings (and the larger puzzle/gap they address) are important
Here's a PDF version