Teaching Resources


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


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