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 these 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
- Conclude by reviewing why these findings (and the larger puzzle/gap they address) are important
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