Anatomy of an Article
The title gives a brief, concise indicator of what the paper is be about
The authors are the ones who worked on the study and analysis that is presented in the paper. In many or even most cases, some of the authors may not have contributed to actually writing the paper but all contributed to some aspect of the research—study design/implementation, data analysis, background research, etc. The order of the authors is also important—the first author is the one who led this specific analysis, the last or last few authors are often the senior or principal investigators.
The abstract gives an abbreviated summary of the article. Many times it will be broken down into smaller mini-sections that reflect the larger sections contained in the paper.
The introduction gives context to the research—why this research is important and what other work has been done to explore this issue—as well as a statement of the hypothesis that the researchers are investigating.
This sections explains in detail how the authors went about investigating their hypothesis. This is generally where you will find a description of the study design used. In some cases that included analysis of well-known, existing studies such as the Framingham Heart Study or the Black Women's Health Study, the study design may be briefly summarized and a citation for a complete methods paper included in the end notes. This section also includes methods of analysis, selection criteria and how data was imputed or controlled.
This sections contains the results of the methodology section.
In this section, the authors analyze their results and explain the significance (or, rarely, the insignificance) of their findings. They also may explain how their findings fit into existing literature and anything that may have surprised them about their results.
This section relates how the findings of this paper relate to the background and hypothesis put forth in the Introduction. It also oftentimes includes a call for further research and investigation.
This is a place for the authors to thank the people, institutions and funders that contributed to their research.
This is essentially a bibliography where works referenced in the paper are listed. This is a great place to find further resources on the subject you're interested in, even if the specific paper you're looking at isn't particularly helpful.
Tables are a way for investigators to display data related to their research. Table 1 is usually a summary of the study population, with Table 2 communicating the principal finding of the study. Further tables often display stratified analysis.
Figures are a way for investigators to show their results in a visual way and can take a variety of forms including histograms, pie charts, scatter charts, etc.