Before you begin to write a research article, it is essential to have a clear idea about the intended readers, their degree of expertise, and their objective in reading the manuscript. A suitable journal should be selected after factoring in these constraints or requirements. The organization, presentation style and depth of the article should be tailored to the target audience.

The key steps in organizing a research article are to first define an overall structure for the manuscript, decide on specific topics or sections, and then finalize the precise content to be included. Articles can be broadly grouped into two types i.e. either those intended for experts or for a general/broad audience.

Articles written for an expert audience

Experts can be of two types: those who are knowledgeable about the overall subject area (general experts). A subset of these can have a detailed and in-depth understanding of the specific topic of research (specialized experts).

The aim of experts in reading a manuscript may be any one of the following:

  • Update or expand their knowledge and understanding of the specific topic or subject area
  • Learn about new concepts or techniques or obtain detailed information about existing ones
  • Seek solutions to problems encountered in the course of their own work
  • To evaluate the quality of the content of the article

When describing concepts, methods and results to general experts, sufficient background information should be provided, including any specialized conventions and terminology. This is usually not required for specialized experts, who can be assumed to have a considerable amount of knowledge. For an expert audience, it is essential to provide a detailed description of various parts and processes through the use of appropriate figures and tables.

Articles written for laypersons

These are people who possess little or no knowledge of the subject area or specific topic. Therefore, no prior knowledge should be assumed, and extensive and easily comprehensible background information should be provided. The use of technical terms should be kept to a minimum and if any are used, these should be explained thoroughly. Attempt to use examples or analogies with which people are generally familiar, and have a bearing on your article or research. Figures outlining the basic concepts should be presented along with those about specific results.

Laypersons may read your article for several reasons:

  • Enhance their general knowledge
  • Learn more about basics and current state of knowledge in a specific field with a view towards achieving expertise
  • To understand specific concepts or methods with the goal of applying these in given situations

When targeting either experts or laypersons, it is essential that the article be written such that it conforms to the journal style. Further, for improving overall readability and presentation, input from subject-area experts can also be taken into account. This allows you to generate more interest amongst readers and maximize the impact of the article.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.