Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Journal article analysis assignments require you to summarize and critically assess the quality of an empirical research study published in a scholarly [a.k.a., academic, peer-reviewed] journal. The article may be assigned by the professor, chosen from course readings listed in the syllabus, or you must locate an article on your own, usually with the requirement that you search using a reputable library database, such as, JSTOR or ProQuest . The article chosen is expected to relate to the overall discipline of the course, specific course content, or key concepts discussed in class. In some cases, the purpose of the assignment is to analyze an article that is part of the literature review for a future research project.

Analysis of an article can be assigned to students individually or as part of a small group project. The final product is usually in the form of a short paper [typically 1- 6 double-spaced pages] that addresses key questions the professor uses to guide your analysis or that assesses specific parts of a scholarly research study [e.g., the research problem, methodology, discussion, conclusions or findings]. The analysis paper may be shared on a digital course management platform and/or presented to the class for the purpose of promoting a wider discussion about the topic of the study. Although assigned in any level of undergraduate and graduate coursework in the social and behavioral sciences, professors frequently include this assignment in upper division courses to help students learn how to effectively identify, read, and analyze empirical research within their major.

Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Benefits of Journal Article Analysis Assignments

Analyzing and synthesizing a scholarly journal article is intended to help students obtain the reading and critical thinking skills needed to develop and write their own research papers. This assignment also supports workplace skills where you could be asked to summarize a report or other type of document and report it, for example, during a staff meeting or for a presentation.

There are two broadly defined ways that analyzing a scholarly journal article supports student learning:

Improve Reading Skills

Conducting research requires an ability to review, evaluate, and synthesize prior research studies. Reading prior research requires an understanding of the academic writing style , the type of epistemological beliefs or practices underpinning the research design, and the specific vocabulary and technical terminology [i.e., jargon] used within a discipline. Reading scholarly articles is important because academic writing is unfamiliar to most students; they have had limited exposure to using peer-reviewed journal articles prior to entering college or students have yet to gain exposure to the specific academic writing style of their disciplinary major. Learning how to read scholarly articles also requires careful and deliberate concentration on how authors use specific language and phrasing to convey their research, the problem it addresses, its relationship to prior research, its significance, its limitations, and how authors connect methods of data gathering to the results so as to develop recommended solutions derived from the overall research process.

Improve Comprehension Skills

In addition to knowing how to read scholarly journals articles, students must learn how to effectively interpret what the scholar(s) are trying to convey. Academic writing can be dense, multi-layered, and non-linear in how information is presented. In addition, scholarly articles contain footnotes or endnotes, references to sources, multiple appendices, and, in some cases, non-textual elements [e.g., graphs, charts] that can break-up the reader’s experience with the narrative flow of the study. Analyzing articles helps students practice comprehending these elements of writing, critiquing the arguments being made, reflecting upon the significance of the research, and how it relates to building new knowledge and understanding or applying new approaches to practice. Comprehending scholarly writing also involves thinking critically about where you fit within the overall dialogue among scholars concerning the research problem, finding possible gaps in the research that require further analysis, or identifying where the author(s) has failed to examine fully any specific elements of the study.

In addition, journal article analysis assignments are used by professors to strengthen discipline-specific information literacy skills, either alone or in relation to other tasks, such as, giving a class presentation or participating in a group project. These benefits can include the ability to:

  • Effectively paraphrase text, which leads to a more thorough understanding of the overall study;
  • Identify and describe strengths and weaknesses of the study and their implications;
  • Relate the article to other course readings and in relation to particular research concepts or ideas discussed during class;
  • Think critically about the research and summarize complex ideas contained within;
  • Plan, organize, and write an effective inquiry-based paper that investigates a research study, evaluates evidence, expounds on the author’s main ideas, and presents an argument concerning the significance and impact of the research in a clear and concise manner;
  • Model the type of source summary and critique you should do for any college-level research paper; and,
  • Increase interest and engagement with the research problem of the study as well as with the discipline.

Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students make the most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946.

Structure and Organization

A journal article analysis paper should be written in paragraph format and include an instruction to the study, your analysis of the research, and a conclusion that provides an overall assessment of the author's work, along with an explanation of what you believe is the study's overall impact and significance. Unless the purpose of the assignment is to examine foundational studies published many years ago, you should select articles that have been published relatively recently [e.g., within the past few years].

Since the research has been completed, reference to the study in your paper should be written in the past tense, with your analysis stated in the present tense [e.g., “The author portrayed access to health care services in rural areas as primarily a problem of having reliable transportation. However, I believe the author is overgeneralizing this issue because...”].

Introduction Section

The first section of a journal analysis paper should describe the topic of the article and highlight the author’s main points. This includes describing the research problem and theoretical framework, the rationale for the research, the methods of data gathering and analysis, the key findings, and the author’s final conclusions and recommendations. The narrative should focus on the act of describing rather than analyzing. Think of the introduction as a more comprehensive and detailed descriptive abstract of the study.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the introduction section may include:

  • Who are the authors and what credentials do they hold that contributes to the validity of the study?
  • What was the research problem being investigated?
  • What type of research design was used to investigate the research problem?
  • What theoretical idea(s) and/or research questions were used to address the problem?
  • What was the source of the data or information used as evidence for analysis?
  • What methods were applied to investigate this evidence?
  • What were the author's overall conclusions and key findings?

Critical Analysis Section

The second section of a journal analysis paper should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the study and analyze its significance and impact. This section is where you shift the narrative from describing to analyzing. Think critically about the research in relation to other course readings, what has been discussed in class, or based on your own life experiences. If you are struggling to identify any weaknesses, explain why you believe this to be true. However, no study is perfect, regardless of how laudable its design may be. Given this, think about the repercussions of the choices made by the author(s) and how you might have conducted the study differently. Examples can include contemplating the choice of what sources were included or excluded in support of examining the research problem, the choice of the method used to analyze the data, or the choice to highlight specific recommended courses of action and/or implications for practice over others. Another strategy is to place yourself within the research study itself by thinking reflectively about what may be missing if you had been a participant in the study or if the recommended courses of action specifically targeted you or your community.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the analysis section may include:

Introduction

  • Did the author clearly state the problem being investigated?
  • What was your reaction to and perspective on the research problem?
  • Was the study’s objective clearly stated? Did the author clearly explain why the study was necessary?
  • How well did the introduction frame the scope of the study?
  • Did the introduction conclude with a clear purpose statement?

Literature Review

  • Did the literature review lay a foundation for understanding the significance of the research problem?
  • Did the literature review provide enough background information to understand the problem in relation to relevant contexts [e.g., historical, economic, social, cultural, etc.].
  • Did literature review effectively place the study within the domain of prior research? Is anything missing?
  • Was the literature review organized by conceptual categories or did the author simply list and describe sources?
  • Did the author accurately explain how the data or information were collected?
  • Was the data used sufficient in supporting the study of the research problem?
  • Was there another methodological approach that could have been more illuminating?
  • Give your overall evaluation of the methods used in this article. How much trust would you put in generating relevant findings?

Results and Discussion

  • Were the results clearly presented?
  • Did you feel that the results support the theoretical and interpretive claims of the author? Why?
  • What did the author(s) do especially well in describing or analyzing their results?
  • Was the author's evaluation of the findings clearly stated?
  • How well did the discussion of the results relate to what is already known about the research problem?
  • Was the discussion of the results free of repetition and redundancies?
  • What interpretations did the authors make that you think are in incomplete, unwarranted, or overstated?
  • Did the conclusion effectively capture the main points of study?
  • Did the conclusion address the research questions posed? Do they seem reasonable?
  • Were the author’s conclusions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented?
  • Has the author explained how the research added new knowledge or understanding?

Overall Writing Style

  • If the article included tables, figures, or other non-textual elements, did they contribute to understanding the study?
  • Were ideas developed and related in a logical sequence?
  • Were transitions between sections of the article smooth and easy to follow?

Overall Evaluation Section

The final section of a journal analysis paper should bring your thoughts together into a coherent assessment of the value of the research study . This section is where the narrative flow transitions from analyzing specific elements of the article to critically evaluating the overall study. Explain what you view as the significance of the research in relation to the overall course content and any relevant discussions that occurred during class. Think about how the article contributes to understanding the overall research problem, how it fits within existing literature on the topic, how it relates to the course, and what it means to you as a student researcher. In some cases, your professor will also ask you to describe your experiences writing the journal article analysis paper as part of a reflective learning exercise.

Possible questions to help guide your writing of the conclusion and evaluation section may include:

  • Was the structure of the article clear and well organized?
  • Was the topic of current or enduring interest to you?
  • What were the main weaknesses of the article? [this does not refer to limitations stated by the author, but what you believe are potential flaws]
  • Was any of the information in the article unclear or ambiguous?
  • What did you learn from the research? If nothing stood out to you, explain why.
  • Assess the originality of the research. Did you believe it contributed new understanding of the research problem?
  • Were you persuaded by the author’s arguments?
  • If the author made any final recommendations, will they be impactful if applied to practice?
  • In what ways could future research build off of this study?
  • What implications does the study have for daily life?
  • Was the use of non-textual elements, footnotes or endnotes, and/or appendices helpful in understanding the research?
  • What lingering questions do you have after analyzing the article?

NOTE: Avoid using quotes. One of the main purposes of writing an article analysis paper is to learn how to effectively paraphrase and use your own words to summarize a scholarly research study and to explain what the research means to you. Using and citing a direct quote from the article should only be done to help emphasize a key point or to underscore an important concept or idea.

Business: The Article Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing, Grand Valley State University; Bachiochi, Peter et al. "Using Empirical Article Analysis to Assess Research Methods Courses." Teaching of Psychology 38 (2011): 5-9; Brosowsky, Nicholaus P. et al. “Teaching Undergraduate Students to Read Empirical Articles: An Evaluation and Revision of the QALMRI Method.” PsyArXi Preprints , 2020; Holster, Kristin. “Article Evaluation Assignment”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology . Washington DC: American Sociological Association, 2016; Kershaw, Trina C., Jennifer Fugate, and Aminda J. O'Hare. "Teaching Undergraduates to Understand Published Research through Structured Practice in Identifying Key Research Concepts." Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology . Advance online publication, 2020; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Reviewer's Guide . SAGE Reviewer Gateway, SAGE Journals; Sego, Sandra A. and Anne E. Stuart. "Learning to Read Empirical Articles in General Psychology." Teaching of Psychology 43 (2016): 38-42; Kershaw, Trina C., Jordan P. Lippman, and Jennifer Fugate. "Practice Makes Proficient: Teaching Undergraduate Students to Understand Published Research." Instructional Science 46 (2018): 921-946; Gyuris, Emma, and Laura Castell. "To Tell Them or Show Them? How to Improve Science Students’ Skills of Critical Reading." International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education 21 (2013): 70-80; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36; MacMillan, Margy and Allison MacKenzie. "Strategies for Integrating Information Literacy and Academic Literacy: Helping Undergraduate Students Make the Most of Scholarly Articles." Library Management 33 (2012): 525-535.

Writing Tip

Not All Scholarly Journal Articles Can Be Critically Analyzed

There are a variety of articles published in scholarly journals that do not fit within the guidelines of an article analysis assignment. This is because the work cannot be empirically examined or it does not generate new knowledge in a way which can be critically analyzed.

If you are required to locate a research study on your own, avoid selecting these types of journal articles:

  • Theoretical essays which discuss concepts, assumptions, and propositions, but report no empirical research;
  • Statistical or methodological papers that may analyze data, but the bulk of the work is devoted to refining a new measurement, statistical technique, or modeling procedure;
  • Articles that review, analyze, critique, and synthesize prior research, but do not report any original research;
  • Brief essays devoted to research methods and findings;
  • Articles written by scholars in popular magazines or industry trade journals;
  • Pre-print articles that have been posted online, but may undergo further editing and revision by the journal's editorial staff before final publication; and
  • Academic commentary that discusses research trends or emerging concepts and ideas, but does not contain citations to sources.

Journal Analysis Assignment - Myers . Writing@CSU, Colorado State University; Franco, Josue. “Introducing the Analysis of Journal Articles.” Prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association’s 2020 Teaching and Learning Conference, February 7-9, 2020, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Woodward-Kron, Robyn. "Critical Analysis and the Journal Article Review Assignment." Prospect 18 (August 2003): 20-36.

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Write a Critical Review of a Scientific Journal Article

1. identify how and why the research was carried out, 2. establish the research context, 3. evaluate the research, 4. establish the significance of the research.

  • Writing Your Critique

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Read the article(s) carefully and use the questions below to help you identify how and why the research was carried out. Look at the following sections: 

Introduction

  • What was the objective of the study?
  • What methods were used to accomplish this purpose (e.g., systematic recording of observations, analysis and evaluation of published research, assessment of theory, etc.)?
  • What techniques were used and how was each technique performed?
  • What kind of data can be obtained using each technique?
  • How are such data interpreted?
  • What kind of information is produced by using the technique?
  • What objective evidence was obtained from the authors’ efforts (observations, measurements, etc.)?
  • What were the results of the study? 
  • How was each technique used to obtain each result?
  • What statistical tests were used to evaluate the significance of the conclusions based on numeric or graphic data?
  • How did each result contribute to answering the question or testing the hypothesis raised in the introduction?
  • How were the results interpreted? How were they related to the original problem (authors’ view of evidence rather than objective findings)? 
  • Were the authors able to answer the question (test the hypothesis) raised?
  • Did the research provide new factual information, a new understanding of a phenomenon in the field, or a new research technique?
  • How was the significance of the work described?
  • Do the authors relate the findings of the study to literature in the field?
  • Did the reported observations or interpretations support or refute observations or interpretations made by other researchers?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:  Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

Once you are familiar with the article, you can establish the research context by asking the following questions:

  • Who conducted the research? What were/are their interests?
  • When and where was the research conducted?
  • Why did the authors do this research?
  • Was this research pertinent only within the authors’ geographic locale, or did it have broader (even global) relevance?
  • Were many other laboratories pursuing related research when the reported work was done? If so, why?
  • For experimental research, what funding sources met the costs of the research?
  • On what prior observations was the research based? What was and was not known at the time?
  • How important was the research question posed by the researchers?

These questions were adapted from the following sources: Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

Remember that simply disagreeing with the material is not considered to be a critical assessment of the material.  For example, stating that the sample size is insufficient is not a critical assessment.  Describing why the sample size is insufficient for the claims being made in the study would be a critical assessment.

Use the questions below to help you evaluate the quality of the authors’ research:

  • Does the title precisely state the subject of the paper?
  • Read the statement of purpose in the abstract. Does it match the one in the introduction?

Acknowledgments

  • Could the source of the research funding have influenced the research topic or conclusions?
  • Check the sequence of statements in the introduction. Does all the information lead coherently to the purpose of the study?
  • Review all methods in relation to the objective(s) of the study. Are the methods valid for studying the problem?
  • Check the methods for essential information. Could the study be duplicated from the methods and information given?
  • Check the methods for flaws. Is the sample selection adequate? Is the experimental design sound?
  • Check the sequence of statements in the methods. Does all the information belong there? Is the sequence of methods clear and pertinent?
  • Was there mention of ethics? Which research ethics board approved the study?
  • Carefully examine the data presented in the tables and diagrams. Does the title or legend accurately describe the content? 
  • Are column headings and labels accurate? 
  • Are the data organized for ready comparison and interpretation? (A table should be self-explanatory, with a title that accurately and concisely describes content and column headings that accurately describe information in the cells.)
  • Review the results as presented in the text while referring to the data in the tables and diagrams. Does the text complement, and not simply repeat data? Are there discrepancies between the results in the text and those in the tables?
  • Check all calculations and presentation of data.
  • Review the results in light of the stated objectives. Does the study reveal what the researchers intended?
  • Does the discussion clearly address the objectives and hypotheses?
  • Check the interpretation against the results. Does the discussion merely repeat the results? 
  • Does the interpretation arise logically from the data or is it too far-fetched? 
  • Have the faults, flaws, or shortcomings of the research been addressed?
  • Is the interpretation supported by other research cited in the study?
  • Does the study consider key studies in the field?
  • What is the significance of the research? Do the authors mention wider implications of the findings?
  • Is there a section on recommendations for future research? Are there other research possibilities or directions suggested? 

Consider the article as a whole

  • Reread the abstract. Does it accurately summarize the article?
  • Check the structure of the article (first headings and then paragraphing). Is all the material organized under the appropriate headings? Are sections divided logically into subsections or paragraphs?
  • Are stylistic concerns, logic, clarity, and economy of expression addressed?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:  Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site. Retrieved July 31, 2006.

After you have evaluated the research, consider whether the research has been successful. Has it led to new questions being asked, or new ways of using existing knowledge? Are other researchers citing this paper?

You should consider the following questions:

  • How did other researchers view the significance of the research reported by your authors?
  • Did the research reported in your article result in the formulation of new questions or hypotheses (by the authors or by other researchers)?
  • Have other researchers subsequently supported or refuted the observations or interpretations of these authors?
  • Did the research make a significant contribution to human knowledge?
  • Did the research produce any practical applications?
  • What are the social, political, technological, medical implications of this research?
  • How do you evaluate the significance of the research?

To answer these questions, look at review articles to find out how reviewers view this piece of research. Look at research articles and databases like Web of Science to see how other people have used this work. What range of journals have cited this article?

These questions were adapted from the following sources:

Kuyper, B.J. (1991). Bringing up scientists in the art of critiquing research. Bioscience 41(4), 248-250. Wood, J.M. (2003). Research Lab Guide. MICR*3260 Microbial Adaptation and Development Web Site . Retrieved July 31, 2006.

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Research Analysis Paper: How to Analyze a Research Article [2024]

Do you need to write a research analysis paper but have no idea how to do that? Then you’re in the right place.

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While completing this type of assignment, your key aim is to critically analyze a research article. An article from a serious scientific journal would be a good choice. You can analyze and interpret either quantitative or qualitative research.

Below, you’ll find a how-to guide on research analysis paper writing prepared by our experts. It contains outlining and formatting tips, topics, and examples of research articles analysis.

  • Scan the Paper
  • Examine the Content
  • Check the Format
  • Critique & Evaluate
  • ✅ Key Questions

🔗 References

🔎 how to analyze a research article.

This analysis will be beneficial for you since it develops your critical thinking and research skills. So, let us present the main steps that should be undertaken to read and evaluate the paper correctly.

Now, let’s figure out what an analysis paper should include. There are several essential elements the reader should identify:

  • logical reasons for conducting the study;
  • the description of the methodology applied in the research;
  • concise and clear report of the findings;
  • a logical conclusion based on the results.

You can use free paper samples for college students before you work with your own writing to get a feel of how the analyzing process goes.

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Step 1: Scan the Paper

First, briefly look through the found paper and evaluate whether it’s appropriate for your research. Scanning helps you to start the content analysis and get the general idea of the study.

To scan the paper effectively, follow these simple steps:

  • Get familiar with the title, abstract , and introduction . Carefully read these parts and make sure you got the author’s point.
  • Read the headings of each section and sub-section. But don’t spend time to get familiar with the content.
  • Look through the conclusions. Check the overall one and the last sentence of each section.
  • Scan the references. Have you read any of these sources before? Highlight them and decide whether they are appropriate for your research or not.

Have you completed these steps of your research paper’s critical analysis? Now, you should be able to answer these questions:

  • What kind of a paper is it (qualitative research, quantitative research, a case study, etc.)?
  • What is the research paper topic? How is it connected to your subject of study?
  • Do you feel like the findings and the conclusions are valid?
  • How can the source contribute to your study?
  • Is the paper clear and well-written?

After completing this step, you should have a clear image of the text’s general idea. Also, here you can decide whether the given paper is worth further examination.

Step 2: Examine the Content

The next step leads to a deeper understanding of the topic. Here, again, you can try the following course of action to take the maximum benefit from the evaluation of the source.

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  • Find the author’s thesis. A thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the introduction (or several sentences). It is an essential part of the paper since it reflects the author’s main point. Make sure you determined the thesis statement and understood it.
  • Consider the author’s arguments. How does the author support his position? What are the key arguments they present in their research paper? Are they logical? Evaluate whether the points are clear and concise enough for any reader to get. Do they support the author’s thesis?
  • Check the evidence. Try to find all the proof provided by the writer. A successful research paper should have valid evidence for every argument. These can be statistics, diagrams, facts taken from documentaries or books, experiments hold by researchers, etc.
  • Determine the limits of the study. An author is supposed to set limits to avoid making their research too broad. Find out what are the variables the writer relied on while determining the exact field of study. Keep them in mind when you decide whether the paper accomplished its goals within limits.
  • Establish the author’s perspective. What position does the author take? What methods are applied to prove the correctness of the writer’s point? Does it match with your opinion? Why/ why not?

Sometimes, even after the second step of evaluation, the writer’s perspective is not evident. What to do in this case? There are three scenarios:

  • Stop investigating the paper and hope that you will not need it for your research.
  • Read some background information on the given topic. Then, reread the paper. This might help you to comprehend the general idea.
  • Don’t give up and move on to the next step of the evaluation.

Step 3: Check the Format and Presentation

At this stage, analyze the research paper format and the general presentation of the arguments and facts. Start with the evaluation of the sentence levels. In the research paper, there should be a hierarchy of sentences. To trace the research paper structure, take a look at the tips:

  • First-level sentences. They include only general statements and present the ideas that will be explored further in the paper.
  • Middle-level sentences. These sentences summarize, give a narrower idea, and present specific arguments.
  • Deep-level sentences. They contain specific facts and evidence that correspond to the arguments stated in middle-level sentences.

Your research paper analysis should also include format evaluation. This task might be challenging unless you have the formatting style manual open in front of your eyes.

Figure out what citation style the author applied and check whether all the requirements are met. Here is a mini checklist you have to follow:

  • in-text citations
  • reference list
  • font style and size, spacing
  • abstract (if needed)
  • appendix (if needed)

Step 4: Critique & Evaluate

This step requires attention to every detail in the paper. Identify each of the author’s assumptions and question them. Do you agree with the author’s evidence? How would you support the arguments? What are your opinions regarding the author’s ideas?

Get an originally-written paper according to your instructions!

For starters:

Try to re-implement the entire paper from your perspective and see how your version differs from the initial work. This trick will help you to determine the strong and weak sides of the work.

Then, move on to criticism. An effective way to evaluate a research paper consists of asking the right questions and assessing the crucial aspects, like:

  • The author’s objective and whether it was reached. Did you get the author’s main idea? Did the writer reach their aim and explain the arguments in great detail? Remember that even if the reader is not majoring in the study field, they should understand the objective. Is there something that remained unclear for you? In your opinion, what is the cause of your inability to comprehend the material?
  • The role in the broader context. Make sure the author’s arguments and evidence sound adequately in the larger context. Do the writer’s ideas contradict social norms. If so, why? Also, check the sources the author uses for their research. Make sure they are reliable and not outdated.
  • Grammar and organization. A professional research paper should not contain any mistakes. Make sure the text is flawless regarding grammar and structure. The ideas have to follow the logical flow; the tone should be academic; the paper should include transitions, summaries should be on point (which is easier to achieve with the help of a paper summarizer ) and so on.
  • What the reader learns. The primary aim of an author is to deliver useful information to the reader. Did you, as a reader, find some new insights? Were they relevant and valuable? Consider whether you’ve read something similar before and how the data fit within limits set by the author.

✅ Research Analysis Paper: Key Questions

As you can see, the task requires a lot of time and effort. That is why we’ve prepared a list of questions you should ask while analyzing a research paper. Use them as a ground for critical reading and evaluation.

Research Article Analysis Topics

  • Research article analysis: Using Evidence-Based Practice to Prevent Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia .
  • Critical analysis of Seligman’s research article on post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Analyze the article on the role of interprofessional communication in healthcare.
  • Examine the articles on the controversy of stem cell research.
  • Write a critical analysis of a research article on abortion .
  • Discuss a research article on nursing and proactive care program.
  • Analyze a quantitative research article on the efficiency of methods used in nursing education .
  • Critical analysis of the research article on the role of environmental biology.
  • Analysis of the articles about primary quantitative and qualitative research .
  • Evaluate Goeders and Guerin’s research on the connection between stress and drug use.
  • Study Angela F. Clark’s research article on the efficacy of a nursing education program.
  • Analyze the research article by Park, Nisch, and Baptiste examining the connection between immigrants’ mental health and the length of stay in the United States.
  • Discuss the scholarly articles researching the connection between obesity and depression.
  • Analysis of nursing research article on level of education .
  • Write a critical analysis of the scholarly article The Effect of Nurse Staffing on Patient Safety Outcomes .
  • Examine a recent research article on spinal cord injuries.
  • Analyze Ronald F. Wright’s research article examining the specifics of jury selection.
  • Study the article by McConnell et al. on the impact of domestic animals on human well-being.
  • Critical evaluation and analysis of the article on ethics and informed consent in research.
  • Analysis of a research article on preventing hospital falls .
  • Write an analysis of the research article studying the challenges of implementing research findings into practice in nursing.
  • Examine the article on the thrombosis process by Bruce Furie and Barbara C. Furie.
  • Analyze Mendenhall and Doherty’s research on a new diabetes management approach.
  • Qualitative research article critique.
  • Critical analysis of a research article on the effectiveness of drug round tabards .
  • Discuss quantitative research about the barriers to electronic commerce implementation.
  • Study the article Health Information Source Use by Jessica Gall Myrick and Michael Hendryx.
  • Analyze a research article by Lengyel et al. That studies the amount of sugar in school breakfast .
  • Write a critical analysis of the research studying the quality of pain management .
  • Examine the research article The Mental Health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada by Sarah E Nelson and Kathi Wilson.
  • Analysis of the article Development of a Proactive Care Program .
  • Study the article on nursing REST: Break Through to Resilience by Rajamohan et al.
  • Critically analyze the research article Quality Management in Healthcare: The Pivotal Desideratum .
  • Examine and interpret the academic article In Defense of the Randomized Controlled Trial by Rosen et al.
  • Write an analysis of a research article Cardiovascular Changes Resulting from Sexual Activity by Bispo, De Lima Lopes, and De Barros.
  • Study the topicality and consistency of Dillner’s article Obstetrician Suspended After Research Inquiry .
  • Critical analysis of research article on nosocomial pneumonia .
  • Discuss the methods used by Johanna Brenner in her research on intersections and class relations.
  • Analyze the research article by Ansari et al. examining the connection between type 2 diabetes and environmental factors.
  • Analysis of research article Nurses’ Perceptions of Research Utilization in a Corporate Health Care System .
  • Examine the importance of the research Effectiveness of Hand Hygiene Interventions in Reducing Illness Absence .
  • Analyze and interpret the article on the toolkit for postgraduate research supervisors by E. Blass & S. Bertone.
  • Discuss the utility and credibility of K. Than’s article A Brief History of Twin Studies .
  • Write a critical analysis of the article researching the current US gun policy and its effect on the rates of gun violence cases.
  • Analysis of articles on evidence-based prevention of surgical site infections.
  • Examine the research article Nurses’ Knowledge about Palliative Care by Etafa et al.
  • Analyze the research conducted by Sandelowski et al. on the stigmatization of HIV-positive women .
  • Discuss the theoretical framework and methodology of a research article on psychological studies .
  • Analysis of a research article about sports and creatine .
  • Study the presentation of research findings in the scholarly article Leadership Characteristics and Digital Transformation .

Congrats! Now you know how to write a research paper analysis. You are welcome to check out our writing tips available on the website and save a ton of time on your academic papers. Share the link with your peers who may need our advice as well.

  • An Introduction to Critical Analysis of Publications in Experimental Biomedical Science, the Research Paper in Basic Medical Sciences: K. Rangachari, modified by D.J. Crankshaw, McMaster University Honours Biology & Pharmacology Program
  • Critical Analysis Template: Keiran Rankin and Sara Wolfe, the Writing Centre, Thompson Rivers University
  • How to Read a Paper: S. Keshav, David R. Cheriton, School of Computer Science, the University of Waterloo
  • How to Read a Research Paper: School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • Reading Research Effectively, Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Research Guides at the University of Southern California
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  • Research paper

How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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research article analysis paper

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

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The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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How to Analyze a Research Article: Guide & Analysis Examples

Analyzing a scientific paper is a complicated task that requires knowledge and systematic preparation. This process favors patience over haste and offers a deep and nuanced exploration of the presented research. Fully understanding the peculiarities of content analysis may seem complicated, especially when it comes to evaluating the results.

Our team has developed a thorough guide to make your writing process more comfortable and focused. We offer helpful tips and examples to help you create a paper worthy of admiration from college professors. This guide has everything for a stellar and in-depth argument analysis.

🤔 What Is a Research Article Analysis?

🎯 analysis of a paper: main goals.

  • 📑 How to Analyze a Research Article

📝 Research Analysis Template: Essay Outline

  • ✨ 5 Tips for Writing an Analysis
  • ✒️ 7 Research Paper Analysis Examples

🔗 References

A research genre analysis is a genre of academic writing that lets students assess issues and arguments presented in research articles. They review the text’s content and determine its validity through critical thinking . It involves a great deal of topic analysis. After studying the source, they provide an assessment of the claims with evidence that support or disprove them. It’s their job to establish which of the statements are flawed and which are valid. Students also summarize the article and explain its relevance to the field of study.

📑 How to Analyze a Research Article – 4 Key Steps

Research paper analysis is often both educational and complicated. Taking a structured approach to this task makes it a lot easier. This section of our guide discloses the four stages that help better understand the content of a scientific paper. Follow our analysis plan to learn how to write about things like results and methodology analysis .

How to analyze a research article: main steps.

Research Paper Analysis: Read an Article & Take Notes

You can’t critique a research piece without reading the source material first. Skimming over the paper won’t do, as you’ll miss crucial details for your analysis. Follow these steps to ensure you get the most out of the paper while critically evaluating its contents.

  • Read the paper once to have a general understanding of what it’s about. Ensure you are familiar with the topic beyond elementary knowledge. You may also read up on related literature beforehand.
  • Read the second time and take notes. Read the entire research paper carefully, paying attention to the results, discussion, and conclusion sections. It’s better to take detailed notes as you read, summarizing each section in your own words.
  • Outline the results of the study. Write a short rundown of what the author found during the search.

Research Paper Analysis: Comprehend & Reveal the Methodology

Once you’re done with the first step, it’s time to move on to the second stage of research paper analysis: comprehending and revealing the methodology. You can’t possibly remember everything about the article so that you can revise your notes.

  • Explore key terms and concepts of an article . If you don’t fully understand them, take the time to familiarize yourself with them.
  • Find the hypothesis or the research question the author decided to tackle . Check the facts, arguments, and logic behind their thinking to view the paper critically.
  • Look at the validity of the arguments . Research sources used in the article and assess the credibility of the supporting evidence.
  • Identify the study’s methodology . Find out how the author approached the research and what its results were. Once you establish the methodology, evaluate the quality of the information, including the methods of data gathering and analysis.

Research Paper Analysis: Assess the Results

After completing the second part of the analysis, it’s time to assess the research results. Establish if the findings support the paper’s hypothesis and their statistical relevance. Address any limitations of the study . For example, a writing on psychology that uses a small group of participants that cannot be considered representative of a larger population. It may be true that the researcher did this intentionally to skew their findings. However, it’s best to be balanced in your article critique and talk about the strong sides of the paper as well. Look at similar studies and see if they came to the same conclusions.

Research Paper Analysis: Draw Conclusions

After you’ve completed the previous steps, you’re ready to make conclusions about the research paper as a whole. Don’t forget to include the following information when working on this part of the analysis:

  • Determine the theoretical and practical meaning of the results. For example, if the paper found a particular treatment effective, emphasize that it should be used more often.
  • Consider the applications of the research results. Try to find out how they can be applied to the broader field and what ethical implications they may lead to.
  • Show how they relate to the big picture. Finally, your analysis should show how the article expands the knowledge of the subject and what it means to further studies.

Writing a research paper analysis can be demanding. These papers have several characteristics that set them apart from other types of academic writing. We’ve created this simple template to explain the content each part of your assessment should have.

Essay outline for analysis of a research article.

✨ 5 Tips for Writing an Analysis of Paper

Mastering the art of writing a research paper analysis takes time and practice. We’ve decided to provide five great tips that will make this process easier and more enjoyable:

  • Take the time to establish the right angle for your analysis. If you can choose its direction, study the paper first and choose the best subject for your work. You can develop several ideas and select the right one later.
  • Connect all evidence to your argument. When conducting the analysis, find facts and data supporting your point of view. Explain the connection of each piece of evidence to your statement and showcase what makes it particularly significant.
  • Stay balanced. A good analysis covers all facts and looks at them objectively. When confronted with data that clashes with your stance, check it and use evidence to bolster the credibility of your arguments.
  • Work on an outline . Good analysis is often grounded in well-structured outline. Write down ideas and topic sentences that connect to various parts of the research sample and its general idea.
  • Evaluate all evidence. All evidence has a place in your analysis. Use all of it, even if you come across contradictory facts. Include information that doesn’t fully support the main idea of your analysis and build compelling counterarguments.

3 important don’ts for analysis you should take into account.

️ ✒️ 7 Great Research Paper Analysis Examples

Seeing an example of a finished article can point you in the right direction. Our team has collected seven excellent essays to inspire your subsequent work and show how to approach its structure correctly.

  • Hybridization Trends for Main Group Elements: Article Analysis Research Paper. This paper analysis deals with a paper on hybridization in chemistry. It shows the relationship between hybridization and electronegativity concerning the bond’s strengths and atomic size.
  • Globalization by Peter Temin: Article Analysis. This analysis deals with an article on globalization published in 1999. It examines research objectives, approach, methodology, key findings, and recommendations for future research on this issue.
  • Effectiveness of Hand Hygiene Interventions in Reducing Illness Absence : Article Analysis. Researchers behind this paper tried to find out if hand washing effectively decreases diseases among children in educational institutions. Its significance lies in the fact that there’s a limited pool of studies on this subject.
  • Analysis of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Article . This paper concerns the pitfalls of team building in a business environment. In particular, how to overcome this environment’s five most common dysfunctions.
  • When Altruism Isn’t Moral by Sally Satel : Article Analysis. The author demonstrates altruistic behavior is not always sufficient to explain human interaction. It discusses what drives people to help others for free or for money.
  • Article Analysis Perceptions of ADHD Among Diagnosed Children and Their Parents. In this work, the author evaluates the findings on the perception of ADHD-diagnosed children in developed countries.
  • School Dress Code: Articles Analysis. This article critique has different points of view on the use of the school dress code. It showcases a comparative analysis of positions that point to increased safety vs. increased diversity.

Research Article Analysis Topics

Now that you understand how to write a research paper analysis, it’s time to find the right topic for your paper. Below, you’ll find fifteen exciting ideas to inspire your analytical pursuits.

  • Review a research paper on the effects of carbon emissions .
  • Explore a recent research article on the use of opioids in American healthcare .
  • Assess a research paper on the applications of the Large Hadron Collider.
  • Discuss quantitative research about mental health rates in developed countries.
  • Examine a scientific article about the problems of space exploration .
  • Investigate a recent research paper about the rise of surveillance technology.
  • Analyze a qualitative research paper on the effectiveness of biofuels as an alternative energy source.
  • Study quantitative methods of research on the housing market in Canada.
  • Scrutinize a research article about the use of pesticides in food production .
  • Evaluate a paper on the efficiency of anti-climate change measures.
  • Assess a recent study on the dangers of sugar consumption .
  • Survey the latest research on fast food advertising tactics.
  • Consider a paper on the most recent developments in string theory .
  • Address a recent research article about artificial intelligence .
  • Cover research about the benefits of using nuclear power.

We did our best to cover all crucial points of research article analysis and prepare you for this kind of academic work. When you have the time, share our guide with fellow students who can benefit from the content of our work!

  • Analyzing Scholarly Articles. – University Writing Center
  • How to Write an Analysis (With Examples and Tips). – Indeed
  • Complete Guide on Article Analysis (with 1 Analysis Example). – Nerdify, Medium
  • How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Guide for Non-scientists. – Jennifer Raff, LSE
  • How to Review a Journal Article. – The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
  • Critique/Review of Research Articles. – University of Calgary
  • How to Summarize a Research Article. – University of Connecticut
  • A Guide for Critique of Research Articles – California State Universite, Long Beach

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  • A Research Guide
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How to Analyze an Article

  • What is an article analysis
  • Outline and structure
  • Step-by-step writing guide
  • Article analysis format
  • Analysis examples
  • Article analysis template

What Is an Article Analysis?

  • Summarize the main points in the piece – when you get to do an article analysis, you have to analyze the main points so that the reader can understand what the article is all about in general. The summary will be an overview of the story outline, but it is not the main analysis. It just acts to guide the reader to understand what the article is all about in brief.
  • Proceed to the main argument and analyze the evidence offered by the writer in the article – this is where analysis begins because you must critique the article by analyzing the evidence given by the piece’s author. You should also point out the flaws in the work and support where it needs to be; it should not necessarily be a positive critique. You are free to pinpoint even the negative part of the story. In other words, you should not rely on one side but be truthful about what you are addressing to the satisfaction of anyone who would read your essay.
  • Analyze the piece’s significance – most readers would want to see why you need to make article analysis. It is your role as a writer to emphasize the importance of the article so that the reader can be content with your writing. When your audience gets interested in your work, you will have achieved your aim because the main aim of writing is to convince the reader. The more persuasive you are, the more your article stands out. Focus on motivating your audience, and you will have scored.

Outline and Structure of an Article Analysis

What do you need to write an article analysis, how to write an analysis of an article, step 1: analyze your audience, step 2: read the article.

  • The evidence : identify the evidence the writer used in the article to support their claim. While looking into the evidence, you should gauge whether the writer brings out factual evidence or it is personal judgments.
  • The argument’s validity: a writer might use many pieces of evidence to support their claims, but you need to identify the sources they use and determine whether they are credible. Credible sources are like scholarly articles and books, and some are not worth relying on for research.
  • How convictive are the arguments? You should be able to judge the writer’s persuasion of the audience. An article is usually informative and therefore has to be persuasive to the readers to be considered worthy. If it does not achieve this, you should be able to critique that and illustrate the same.

Step 3: Make the plan

Step 4: write a critical analysis of an article, step 5: edit your essay, article analysis format, article analysis example, what didn’t you know about the article analysis template.

  • Read through the piece quickly to get an overview.
  • Look for confronting words in the article and note them down.
  • Read the piece for the second time while summarizing major points in the literature piece.
  • Reflect on the paper’s thesis to affirm and adhere to it in your writing.
  • Note the arguments and the evidence used.
  • Evaluate the article and focus on your audience.
  • Give your opinion and support it to the satisfaction of your audience.

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Research Paper Analysis: How to Analyze a Research Article + Example

Why might you need to analyze research? First of all, when you analyze a research article, you begin to understand your assigned reading better. It is also the first step toward learning how to write your own research articles and literature reviews. However, if you have never written a research paper before, it may be difficult for you to analyze one. After all, you may not know what criteria to use to evaluate it. But don’t panic! We will help you figure it out!

In this article, our team has explained how to analyze research papers quickly and effectively. At the end, you will also find a research analysis paper example to see how everything works in practice.

  • 🔤 Research Analysis Definition

📊 How to Analyze a Research Article

✍️ how to write a research analysis.

  • 📝 Analysis Example
  • 🔎 More Examples

🔗 References

🔤 research paper analysis: what is it.

A research paper analysis is an academic writing assignment in which you analyze a scholarly article’s methodology, data, and findings. In essence, “to analyze” means to break something down into components and assess each of them individually and in relation to each other. The goal of an analysis is to gain a deeper understanding of a subject. So, when you analyze a research article, you dissect it into elements like data sources , research methods, and results and evaluate how they contribute to the study’s strengths and weaknesses.

📋 Research Analysis Format

A research analysis paper has a pretty straightforward structure. Check it out below!

Research articles usually include the following sections: introduction, methods, results, and discussion. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss how to analyze a scientific article with a focus on each of its parts.

This image shows the main sections of a research article.

How to Analyze a Research Paper: Purpose

The purpose of the study is usually outlined in the introductory section of the article. Analyzing the research paper’s objectives is critical to establish the context for the rest of your analysis.

When analyzing the research aim, you should evaluate whether it was justified for the researchers to conduct the study. In other words, you should assess whether their research question was significant and whether it arose from existing literature on the topic.

Here are some questions that may help you analyze a research paper’s purpose:

  • Why was the research carried out?
  • What gaps does it try to fill, or what controversies to settle?
  • How does the study contribute to its field?
  • Do you agree with the author’s justification for approaching this particular question in this way?

How to Analyze a Paper: Methods

When analyzing the methodology section , you should indicate the study’s research design (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed) and methods used (for example, experiment, case study, correlational research, survey, etc.). After that, you should assess whether these methods suit the research purpose. In other words, do the chosen methods allow scholars to answer their research questions within the scope of their study?

For example, if scholars wanted to study US students’ average satisfaction with their higher education experience, they could conduct a quantitative survey . However, if they wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors influencing US students’ satisfaction with higher education, qualitative interviews would be more appropriate.

When analyzing methods, you should also look at the research sample . Did the scholars use randomization to select study participants? Was the sample big enough for the results to be generalizable to a larger population?

You can also answer the following questions in your methodology analysis:

  • Is the methodology valid? In other words, did the researchers use methods that accurately measure the variables of interest?
  • Is the research methodology reliable? A research method is reliable if it can produce stable and consistent results under the same circumstances.
  • Is the study biased in any way?
  • What are the limitations of the chosen methodology?

How to Analyze Research Articles’ Results

You should start the analysis of the article results by carefully reading the tables, figures, and text. Check whether the findings correspond to the initial research purpose. See whether the results answered the author’s research questions or supported the hypotheses stated in the introduction.

To analyze the results section effectively, answer the following questions:

  • What are the major findings of the study?
  • Did the author present the results clearly and unambiguously?
  • Are the findings statistically significant ?
  • Does the author provide sufficient information on the validity and reliability of the results?
  • Have you noticed any trends or patterns in the data that the author did not mention?

How to Analyze Research: Discussion

Finally, you should analyze the authors’ interpretation of results and its connection with research objectives. Examine what conclusions the authors drew from their study and whether these conclusions answer the original question.

You should also pay attention to how the authors used findings to support their conclusions. For example, you can reflect on why their findings support that particular inference and not another one. Moreover, more than one conclusion can sometimes be made based on the same set of results. If that’s the case with your article, you should analyze whether the authors addressed other interpretations of their findings .

Here are some useful questions you can use to analyze the discussion section:

  • What findings did the authors use to support their conclusions?
  • How do the researchers’ conclusions compare to other studies’ findings?
  • How does this study contribute to its field?
  • What future research directions do the authors suggest?
  • What additional insights can you share regarding this article? For example, do you agree with the results? What other questions could the researchers have answered?

This image shows how to analyze a research article.

Now, you know how to analyze an article that presents research findings. However, it’s just a part of the work you have to do to complete your paper. So, it’s time to learn how to write research analysis! Check out the steps below!

1. Introduce the Article

As with most academic assignments, you should start your research article analysis with an introduction. Here’s what it should include:

  • The article’s publication details . Specify the title of the scholarly work you are analyzing, its authors, and publication date. Remember to enclose the article’s title in quotation marks and write it in title case .
  • The article’s main point . State what the paper is about. What did the authors study, and what was their major finding?
  • Your thesis statement . End your introduction with a strong claim summarizing your evaluation of the article. Consider briefly outlining the research paper’s strengths, weaknesses, and significance in your thesis.

Keep your introduction brief. Save the word count for the “meat” of your paper — that is, for the analysis.

2. Summarize the Article

Now, you should write a brief and focused summary of the scientific article. It should be shorter than your analysis section and contain all the relevant details about the research paper.

Here’s what you should include in your summary:

  • The research purpose . Briefly explain why the research was done. Identify the authors’ purpose and research questions or hypotheses .
  • Methods and results . Summarize what happened in the study. State only facts, without the authors’ interpretations of them. Avoid using too many numbers and details; instead, include only the information that will help readers understand what happened.
  • The authors’ conclusions . Outline what conclusions the researchers made from their study. In other words, describe how the authors explained the meaning of their findings.

If you need help summarizing an article, you can use our free summary generator .

3. Write Your Research Analysis

The analysis of the study is the most crucial part of this assignment type. Its key goal is to evaluate the article critically and demonstrate your understanding of it.

We’ve already covered how to analyze a research article in the section above. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Analyze whether the study’s purpose is significant and relevant.
  • Examine whether the chosen methodology allows for answering the research questions.
  • Evaluate how the authors presented the results.
  • Assess whether the authors’ conclusions are grounded in findings and answer the original research questions.

Although you should analyze the article critically, it doesn’t mean you only should criticize it. If the authors did a good job designing and conducting their study, be sure to explain why you think their work is well done. Also, it is a great idea to provide examples from the article to support your analysis.

4. Conclude Your Analysis of Research Paper

A conclusion is your chance to reflect on the study’s relevance and importance. Explain how the analyzed paper can contribute to the existing knowledge or lead to future research. Also, you need to summarize your thoughts on the article as a whole. Avoid making value judgments — saying that the paper is “good” or “bad.” Instead, use more descriptive words and phrases such as “This paper effectively showed…”

Need help writing a compelling conclusion? Try our free essay conclusion generator !

5. Revise and Proofread

Last but not least, you should carefully proofread your paper to find any punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes. Start by reading your work out loud to ensure that your sentences fit together and sound cohesive. Also, it can be helpful to ask your professor or peer to read your work and highlight possible weaknesses or typos.

This image shows how to write a research analysis.

📝 Research Paper Analysis Example

We have prepared an analysis of a research paper example to show how everything works in practice.

No Homework Policy: Research Article Analysis Example

This paper aims to analyze the research article entitled “No Assignment: A Boon or a Bane?” by Cordova, Pagtulon-an, and Tan (2019). This study examined the effects of having and not having assignments on weekends on high school students’ performance and transmuted mean scores. This article effectively shows the value of homework for students, but larger studies are needed to support its findings.

Cordova et al. (2019) conducted a descriptive quantitative study using a sample of 115 Grade 11 students of the Central Mindanao University Laboratory High School in the Philippines. The sample was divided into two groups: the first received homework on weekends, while the second didn’t. The researchers compared students’ performance records made by teachers and found that students who received assignments performed better than their counterparts without homework.

The purpose of this study is highly relevant and justified as this research was conducted in response to the debates about the “No Homework Policy” in the Philippines. Although the descriptive research design used by the authors allows to answer the research question, the study could benefit from an experimental design. This way, the authors would have firm control over variables. Additionally, the study’s sample size was not large enough for the findings to be generalized to a larger population.

The study results are presented clearly, logically, and comprehensively and correspond to the research objectives. The researchers found that students’ mean grades decreased in the group without homework and increased in the group with homework. Based on these findings, the authors concluded that homework positively affected students’ performance. This conclusion is logical and grounded in data.

This research effectively showed the importance of homework for students’ performance. Yet, since the sample size was relatively small, larger studies are needed to ensure the authors’ conclusions can be generalized to a larger population.

🔎 More Research Analysis Paper Examples

Do you want another research analysis example? Check out the best analysis research paper samples below:

  • Gracious Leadership Principles for Nurses: Article Analysis
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  • “Differential Effectiveness of Placebo Treatments”: Research Paper Analysis
  • “Family-Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Interventions”: Analysis Research Paper Example
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  • “Fostering Early Breast Cancer Detection” Article Analysis
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  • Journal Article Review: Correlates of Physical Violence at School
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  • Article Analysis: “Perceptions of ADHD Among Diagnosed Children and Their Parents”
  • Codependence, Narcissism, and Childhood Trauma: Analysis of the Article
  • Relationship Between Work Intensity, Workaholism, Burnout, and MSC: Article Review

We hope that our article on research paper analysis has been helpful. If you liked it, please share this article with your friends!

  • Analyzing Research Articles: A Guide for Readers and Writers | Sam Mathews
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Primary research involves collecting data about a given subject directly from the real world. This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis.

Analysis is a type of primary research that involves finding and interpreting patterns in data, classifying those patterns, and generalizing the results. It is useful when looking at actions, events, or occurrences in different texts, media, or publications. Analysis can usually be done without considering most of the ethical issues discussed in the overview, as you are not working with people but rather publicly accessible documents. Analysis can be done on new documents or performed on raw data that you yourself have collected.

Here are several examples of analysis:

  • Recording commercials on three major television networks and analyzing race and gender within the commercials to discover some conclusion.
  • Analyzing the historical trends in public laws by looking at the records at a local courthouse.
  • Analyzing topics of discussion in chat rooms for patterns based on gender and age.

Analysis research involves several steps:

  • Finding and collecting documents.
  • Specifying criteria or patterns that you are looking for.
  • Analyzing documents for patterns, noting number of occurrences or other factors.

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  • Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being
  • v.6(3); 2011

Children's understandings’ of obesity, a thematic analysis

Childhood obesity is a major concern in today's society. Research suggests the inclusion of the views and understandings of a target group facilitates strategies that have better efficacy. The objective of this study was to explore the concepts and themes that make up children's understandings of the causes and consequences of obesity. Participants were selected from Reception (4–5 years old) and Year 6 (10–11 years old), and attended a school in an area of Sunderland, in North East England. Participants were separated according to age and gender, resulting in four focus groups, run across two sessions. A thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) identified overarching themes evident across all groups, suggesting the key concepts that contribute to children's understandings of obesity are “Knowledge through Education,” “Role Models,” “Fat is Bad,” and “Mixed Messages.” The implications of these findings and considerations of the methodology are discussed in full.

The Health Survey for England 2009 illustrated that 65.9% of men and 56.9% of women have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 25 kg/m 2 , classing them as overweight, obese (>30 kg/m 2 ), or morbidly obese (>40 kg/m 2 ). Obesity is linked to many chronic illnesses, including type II diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers—specifically bowel and others within the digestive system (Renehan, Tyson, Egger, Heller, & Zwahlen, 2008 ). As a result, the direct cost to the National Health Service (NHS) of treating obesity was estimated to be between £991 and £1,124 million, for the 2001/2002 financial year (McCormick & Stone, 2007 ).

Childhood obesity is of particular concern because obese children are far more likely than children of a normal weight to become obese adults (Alexander & Sherman, 1991 ). The Health Survey for England 2009 showed that between 1995 and 2008, the percentage of overweight and obese girls rose from 25.5 to 29.2% and from 24.5 to 31.4% for boys. This is despite the fact that during the same period reported total energy intake in the United Kingdom (UK) fell by around 20% (Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet England, 2006 ). These contradictory figures highlight the complexity of factors contributing to obesity, pointing to issues such as levels of physical activity, which have significantly fallen over the past two decades (Prentice & Jebb, 1995 ).

Many other factors influence incidences of obesity. The negative impact of childhood obesity causes the greatest concern and needs to be further understood. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and experience increased health problems. Knowler, Pettitt, and Saad ( 1991 ), highlighted the links between childhood obesity and a poor immune system, risk of raised blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems. Studies have also identified that overweight and obese children are more likely to suffer psychological problems associated with low self-esteem, bullying, and social exclusion (Breat, Mervielde, & Vandereycken, 1997 ).

On an international scale, obesity can be seen as a problem of the developed world, a result of economic wealth, high food availability, and low levels of manual labour leading to lower levels of physical activity. This is in conjunction with high levels of car ownership and wide ranging public transport systems adding to the problem. In short, at the heart of obesity lies a homeostatic biological system that works constantly to maintain energy balance to keep the body at a constant weight. This system has not yet adapted to the world in which we currently live because the pace of technological progress has surpassed evolution resulting in a more sedentary lifestyle (Department of Innovation Universities and Skills, 2007). One surprising feature of the geographical distribution of obesity is its increased prevalence in economically and socially deprived areas in the western world, including the focus of this current piece of research, the United Kingdom. This phenomenon is very much a recent development, because historically deprived areas tended to see higher levels of under-nutrition. Brunt, Lester, Davies, and Williams ( 2008 ) illustrate how this situation has now reversed. They found between 1995 and 2005 the gap between obesity levels in the most deprived areas compared to the least (the latter typically having the higher levels) was steadily closing, and that by 2005 obesity levels in the most deprived areas had overtaken those in the least deprived areas, a phenomena that persists today.

The Childhood Measurement Programme (Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008 ) demonstrated Sunderland in the north-east of England has some of the highest levels of overweight and obese children in the United Kingdom. This same publication also points out the strong positive correlation between areas considered as deprived and levels of obesity in children in Reception (4–5 year olds) and Year 6 (10–11 year olds). Areas of Sunderland are considered to be economically and socially deprived meaning the children who live there can be considered high risk. The statistics relating to Sunderland, where this study took place, demonstrate that 27.8% of Reception-aged children are either overweight or obese and for Year 6 pupils this rises to 38.4%.

The Foresight Report (Department of Innovation Universities and Skills, 2007), tackling obesity, points out that current policies are failing because they do not provide the depth and range of interventions needed. This might lead to positive interventions being ineffective if they are undermined by other areas in society such as social factors and the power of media advertising. The government launched its Healthy Schools Initiative in 2005; however, there has been no substantial reduction in obesity levels since 2005 (Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008). With this in mind it would seem timely to approach the problem from a different perspective. Effective policies to tackle obesity need to consider all parties involved. However, current policies have been formed using a top down approach i.e., from government, health and education professionals, and even celebrity chefs! Even though these groups are likely to have a broad understanding of the problem from its roots to the long-term consequences, there has been a notable failure to take into consideration the understandings of the individuals at highest risk of obesity, the children themselves. There is growing evidence that interventions incorporating the views of the target population have a greater level of success (Hesketh, Water, Green, Salmon, & Williams, 2005). In the United Kingdom there has been a strong movement to ensure the inclusion of children in decision making particularly in relation to issues that directly affect them such as education, social care, and health (Department of Health, 2002 ; Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills, 2004 ). The collection and dissemination of the understandings of children relating to obesity could provide an insight into why so many strategies are failing. This in turn could lead to the development of policies that can be delivered to provide more successful outcomes.

There is a clear shortage of research examining children's understandings’ of obesity, the studies that have attempted to explore this domain have focused on exploring parent and care giver perceptions (Young-Hyman, Herman, Scott, & Schlundt, 1999), and the understandings of health professionals (Chamberlin, Sherman, Jain, Powers, & Whitaker, 2002 ). More recently studies have considered the understandings of care givers, health professionals, and teachers alongside those of the children themselves (Borra, Kelly, Shirreffs, Neville, & Geiger, 2003; Hesketh et al., 2005). Studies that have examined children's understanding have been focused on body image, overweight versus underweight (Hill & Silver, 1995 ), and peer perceptions of overweight and eating behaviour (Bell & Morgan, 2000 ; Oliver & Thelen, 1996 ), but not on the understandings’ of the children themselves with regards to the causes and consequences of obesity.

Focus groups have proved to be a particularly useful method for collecting data from children, they are most effective with groups of three children and in situations where the children know and like each other. Groups must be carefully selected to ensure the children are comfortable with each other. Talking together in small groups is familiar territory for children because it simulates class work. This method allows the researcher to structure the discussion around themes or topics rather than direct questions. This in turn enables the children to take control of the discussion (Mauthner, 1997 ) with the researcher present to keep things on track. Conducting group discussions in single sex groups can also prove to be more successful because boys are often louder and more willing to talk and this can mean they direct the topic of conversation. It has also been noted the use of some sort of structured activity such as drawing, reading, or sorting cards, can help focus discussion in particular with young children. When discussing diet with children, nutritionists and dieticians regularly use replica food items to help visualise the topic under discussion and photos depicting scenes of physical activity have proved effective in qualitative studies (Hesketh et al., 2005 ).

In summary the objective of this research is to investigate the understandings of a high risk group of children (high risk because of their socio-economic status so determined by their locality), of some of the causes and consequences of obesity, and its links to diet and physical activity. The concepts and themes generated by this research should be used to provide an insight that may inform local policies and interventions that need to be developed to provide a broader and deeper range of options to address this multi-faceted issue.

In order to address the gaps in current literature it was decided this research should focus on identifying themes within the participants understanding. This would provide the researcher with scope for further investigation of the subject in question. It was therefore decided that the most appropriate method of analysis would be a thematic analysis. However, there have been criticisms of this approach in the past due to the lack of clear guidelines for researchers employing such methods. This has subsequently contributed to some researchers omitting “how” they actually analysed their results (Attride-Stirling, 2001 ). It was of upmost importance to the authors in this current study to employ a clear, replicable, and transparent methodology.

Braun and Clarke ( 2006 ) outline a series of phases through which researchers must pass in order to produce a thematic analysis. This procedure allows a clear demarcation of thematic analysis, providing researchers with a well-defined explanation of what it is and how it is carried out whilst maintaining the “flexibility” tied to its epistemological position. The authors in this paper take a position that acknowledges our desire to incorporate the individual experiences of the participants and the meanings they attach to them. However, we also wish to consider the impact of the wider social context on these meanings. Braun and Clarke describe such a position as “contextualist,” sitting firmly between essentialism or realism and constuctionism. Not all theorists describe these two poles of epistemological outlook in the same way; Madill et al. ( 2000 ) refers to them as “naive realist” and “radical relativist.” Methodologies that go hand in hand with this mid-ground position are typically phenomenological in nature, but the flexibility of thematic analysis means that it can also be underpinned by an “in-between” epistemological position. Willig ( 2008 , p. 13) summarises this by explaining a position that argues “while experience is always the product of interpretation and, therefore, constructed (and flexible) … it is nevertheless ‘real’ to the person who is having the experience.” We wish to consider the reality of obesity to the participants, through an exploration of their experiences and the meanings they attach to them, whilst incorporating the broader role society plays in contributing to and shaping the participants meaning making and subsequent understandings.

Participants

Twelve participants were selected through liaising with the school and class teachers, this was particularly important considering the sensitive nature of the research topic and the fact that the participants taking part in this study were children—a vulnerable group. Measures were taken to prevent any of the participants feeling stigmatised. Therefore, under the guidance of the class teachers, the participants approached to take part in the study were carefully selected to ensure no children who may have been made to feel uncomfortable by the discussion were included, and to make sure that the children selected to be in the same focus groups were comfortable with each other. Six (three boys and three girls) were selected from two school years; Reception, aged between 4 and 5 years and Year 6 aged between 10 and 11. The motivation for selecting these age groups was that government statistics relating to childhood obesity are published for these two age brackets. These age groups are viewed as critical points in measuring children's BMI and in monitoring their changing health status. Through looking at these age groups, it may help us to gain an insight into what understandings children arrive at school with (primarily shaped by their experiences set within a home environment) and those that they have later on in their school life when further social influence (school and peers) may play a role in shaping their understandings. Efforts were made to make the sample representative of ethnicities attending the school so a proportionate number of children of Bangladeshi and Afro-Caribbean heritage took part. Participants were not recruited on account of their BMI or weight status. The parents of the children were provided with a study information letter and, in addition, received a phone call from the school's community liaison officer to ensure that parents fully understood the nature of the study because the researcher was aware that for some parents English was not their first language. The phone calls were made in their mother tongue thus allowing the parents to sign the parental assent form with all their queries being answered. Participants were also asked for their verbal consent on the day prior to the study taking place.

The study had received ethical approval from Northumbria University's School of Psychology and Sports Science Ethics Board prior to commencing. The researcher had also been approved by means of an enhanced criminal records background check clearing her to work with children; this approval was required by both the school and the university.

The focus groups all took place in the same quiet room at the school and were conducted by the principal investigator (referred to herein as the researcher). On arrival, the researcher introduced herself and provided name badges for the participants. The researcher briefly explained to the participants that she was there to talk to them about food and exercise. The researcher also explained to the participants that she wanted them to assume that she knew nothing, they were not being tested, and she was only interested in hearing what they had to say—not whether they were right or wrong. Verbal instructions were provided to the participants and they provided verbal assent prior to the recording commencing. A series of questions were developed by the research team, these were designed to keep the focus group sessions on track whilst exploring issues relevant to the research question. The sessions started initially with a discussion centred on the replica food items laid out on the table. Participants were asked to use the replica food and pick out healthy foods and make what they thought would be a healthy lunch. They were asked to explain why it was healthy and what made it healthy. Participants were then asked about foods they liked and why they liked them. In addition, they were asked about the sorts of things they normally ate at home and in school and things they liked to eat. Once conversation had dwindled concerning the replica food the researcher introduced the laminated picture cards, and the discussion moved to physical activity with the researcher encouraging the participants to explore the relationship between diet and exercise. Questions focussed on what activities they thought were healthy (as the images depicted activities that were both physical and sedentary; that is, one image of somebody running another of somebody playing computer games). The participants were asked about what sorts of activities they liked doing and what made those activities good for them. They were asked what activities they regularly engaged with, the sorts of sports their parents and siblings took part in, and the activities they did as families. The themes of discussion were encouraged around the two elements pertinent to any strategy looking to reduce obesity: healthy eating and physical activity. Furthermore, questions also probed at what the participants thought the benefits were of following a healthy lifestyle and what the consequences were of not following one. They were also asked what advice they would give somebody who wanted to be healthier and how important it was to them to be healthy. The focus group guide was intended to provide a structure but not rigidly dictate the line of questioning. The researcher included prompts and encouraged participants to expand on their initial responses and followed up on notions that the participants raised themselves. The sessions on the first day lasted between 20 and 30 min, ending when the participants input was insufficient to continue. At the end of each session the researcher read out the participant debrief and provided each participant with a parental debrief information sheet to take home.

In order to strengthen the analysis process and gather the most appropriate data, the researchers reviewed the recording made on the first day and reflected on the procedures employed in the focus groups. Similar approaches of reviewing data to informing further data collection are used in methods such as grounded theory and it was felt that doing so would strengthen the current study. The decision was made not to use the props (replica food and cards) used on the first day in the second round of focus groups, as at times they had proved to be a distraction to the participants. As an alternative, Reception children were given colouring pens and paper to focus their attention. Year 6 focus groups were run again allowing for free discussion, following on from issues and understandings they had raised in the initial session. The second round of focus groups, other than the changes already detailed above, followed the same sequence as they had on day one and lasted around 30 min. The recordings were transcribed combining the recordings from both days creating four transcripts, one for each group.

Data analysis

The data collected from all the focus groups was transcribed by the principal investigator, during this process the initial thoughts and ideas were noted down as this is considered an essential stage in analysis (Riessman, 1993 ). The transcribed data was then read and re-read several times and, in addition, the recordings were listened to several times to ensure the accuracy of the transcription. This process of “repeated reading” (Braun & Clarke, 2006 ) and the use of the recordings to listen to the data, results in data immersion and refers to the researcher's closeness with the data. Following on from this initial stage and building on the notes and ideas generated through transcription and data immersion is the coding phase. These codes identified features of the data that the researcher considered pertinent to the research question. Furthermore, as is intrinsic to the method, the whole data set was given equal attention so that full consideration could be given to repeated patterns within the data. The third stage involved searching for themes; these explained larger sections of the data by combining different codes that may have been very similar or may have been considered the same aspect within the data. All initial codes relevant to the research question were incorporated into a theme. Braun and Clarke (2006) also suggest the development of thematic maps to aid the generation of themes. These helped the researchers to visualise and consider the links and relationships between themes. At this point any themes that did not have enough data to support them or were too diverse were discarded. This refinement of the themes took place on two levels, primarily with the coded data ensuring they formed a coherent pattern, secondly once a coherent pattern was formed the themes were considered in relation to the data set as a whole. This ensured the themes accurately reflected what was evident in the data set as a whole (Braun & Clarke, 2006 ). Further coding also took place at this stage to ensure no codes had been missed in the earlier stages. Once a clear idea of the various themes and how they fitted together emerged, analysis moved to phase five. This involves defining and naming the themes, each theme needs to be clearly defined and accompanied by a detailed analysis. Considerations were made not only of the story told within individual themes but how these related to the overall story that was evident within the data. In addition, it was highly important to develop short but punchy names that conveyed an immediate indication of the essence of the theme. The final stage or the report production involved choosing examples of transcript to illustrate elements of the themes. These extracts clearly identified issues within the theme and presented a lucid example of the point being made.

The thematic analysis process that was applied to the transcripts elicited key concepts that were evident in the data. These themes are viewed as essential in determining the understandings of all the participants. These categories have been labelled as “Knowledge through Education,” “Role Models,” “Fat is Bad,” and “Mixed Messages.” There are of course aspects of the participants’ understandings that overlap across these categories. This, however, should be viewed as a good interpretation of understandings and attitudes in general, which are never made up of isolated concepts but are all relative to each other.

Knowledge through education

This theme is defined by the ability of all the participants to understand the roles of diet and physical activity. This is, in part, likely to be defined by different levels of education that the two age groups represented have, but nothing conclusive can be drawn given the relatively small sample size. The impact of their education on their knowledge will be demonstrated through evidence from the transcript.

All participants in the reception age group expressed the ability to name and identify different food items from the replica food. When they were asked to prepare a healthy lunch from the food items, they were able to point out food that would typically be classified as healthy.

I: No none of it is real! So what have you put in your healthy lunches girls? You tell me what you have got. *: Apple, I've got pasta, egg, cracker, grapes, bun and cheese. Girls reception Open in a separate window

However, despite displaying that they “know” what healthy means there is evidence of confusion, and it would seem the concept of something being “good” for them is interpreted to be things they like to eat. This suggests that they don't yet fully understand the concept of “healthy” food.

I: And why's rice healthy? *: Because it's nice. I: What healthy food do you eat? *: Chips Boys reception Open in a separate window

Their definition of healthy is centred on food they believe will make them grow for which fruit is highlighted as being particularly important. However, they also attribute this property to the food that makes up their personal diets. This understanding might result from being told to eat so they grow up to be big and strong. It is important to consider younger children's understandings are likely to be primarily shaped by their home environment, where the emphasis is often on how much children are eating as opposed to what they are eating.

I: Why is a banana important? *: Because it makes you strong so you can grow you have to have fruit so you can grow. I: Can you tell me then girls, we have found all these things that are good, as an example can you tell me, sausage, why is sausage good? *: Because it makes you feel strong. Girls reception Open in a separate window

This understanding of the reception-aged girls represented in this study of eating so they can grow up to be strong is also evident with the boys in the same age group. However, the reception boys also place great importance on the necessity of exercise to develop strength, this demonstrates another aspect in their knowledge.

I: What about this one here, swimming, who likes swimming? *: Me *: Me *: Me I: And why is swimming good for you? *: Cos it makes you strong. Boys reception Open in a separate window

It is fair to say Year 6 groups relished the opportunity to express their knowledge. They were able to identify and name different food groups and discuss different types of physical activity; what's more they understand the link between the two in relation to obesity. It seems other influences have impacted on the children's understandings’ such as school and extracurricular groups.

*: This is a banana. I: Ok why's a banana healthy? *: Because it's got seeds inside, because it's a fruit. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

The ability to identify a particular fruit by one of its universal characteristics shows a deeper level of understanding and suggests that a higher degree of learning. In fact it is explicitly stated that this nutritional knowledge has been gained at school.

I: So do you know the different groups of food like carbohydrates, I heard you say protein and dairy before? *: Done it in science. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

Moreover, it isn't just a nutritional knowledge they have developed through education. They appear well versed in the concept of a balanced diet and also understand the importance of a balanced lifestyle in relation to physical activity. They are able to articulate the notion of a balanced, healthy lifestyle through a consideration of the consequences of over eating and not exercising.

I: So what happens to you if all you do is you do watch TV and play the computer, eat the food that you told me was the bad food, what would happen to you? *: You would have a miserable life. *: Get fat, teeth will fall out. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

In the case of the Year 6 boys who took part in this study, it is apparent that although a great deal of their knowledge has come through education at school, other avenues have helped them develop different aspects of their understandings. In this case it seems to be through taking part in activities, typically sport outside of school, or and more uniquely to this group through the influence of their fathers.

*: I would say my dad likes fish so I eat fish loads. *: My dad likes chicken, so he gives me chicken cos after school I do sport, like boxing, he gives me a sandwich with loads of different toppings in cos meats a muscle maker and vegetables is like an energy maker, so if you eat those you will get fitter and healthier. Boys year 6 Open in a separate window

It is evident where the ability exists, or is encouraged, to apply knowledge they have in a context relevant to their own lives, the knowledge becomes embedded in their understandings; it is applicable to them and, therefore, moves from being written on the board in school to being important to their own existence. This is exhibited by those participants, in particular the boys who participated, who have an involvement in sport. Having a motivation to understand nutrition and exercise leads to a desire to apply it because they comprehend the potential benefits. This aspect within the initial theme of knowledge through education leads directly on to the next theme of role models. The key difference between these two themes is the first relates to information that is directly and intentionally meant to inform the children about healthy lifestyles in an institutional setting, while the second theme is typified by understandings that are formed through interactions with other people.

Role models

The application of knowledge gained through education is often facilitated by role models such as family members who reiterate this information through example. Role models play an important role in the concepts described by all the groups, for example, the older boys reported that their fathers helped encourage healthy behaviours, above and beyond the nutritional knowledge in the previous theme.

*: Like sometimes on an afternoon my dad goes to the gym, then there is these tracks outside, and I practice every day on my 100 meter sprint and I can do it in 12 seconds, and when I started doing it I was 21 second, so I keep practicing. Boys year 6 Open in a separate window

This demonstrates some of the participants’ understandings have developed by examples set for them by significant individuals in their lives. This is evident in the younger children's understandings in a less explicit manner; the example below demonstrates good health behaviours can be established through everyday behaviour exhibited by role models.

I: What about this one, walking to school? … Why is it good for you? *: Because me and my mam walk to school and its good. Girls reception Open in a separate window

There is some evidence that examples set to the girls who took part in this study, at home and by other role models, can encourage behaviours or ideals that are not beneficial to the girls health. Girls appear to look up to older female family members who aspire to be skinny.

*: I like to be skinny, my nana does as well, and she wants to be skinny because she's fat now but I still love her. Girls reception Open in a separate window

They also appear to have developed unrealistic ideas about weight loss and the consequences in terms of treatment. Viewing hospital treatment as a solution to obesity, demonstrates a lack of understanding about the role of lifestyle behaviours in the condition. This may also suggest that these participants don't appreciate the importance of lifestyle behaviours in the onset of obesity.

*: Guess what, I seen this film right the boy was fat right, his legs was right down to the bottom, he had a fat tummy, I was hiding cos I hated him, he was horrible, he will have to go to hospital, he was fat. Girls reception I: So what would you tell somebody if you pretend that I was really, really fat, what would you tell me to do. *: Go to the doctors … hospital, operation. Girls reception Open in a separate window

There was some evidence that the older girls in this study had a more balanced outlook on what sort of body shape was healthiest, because they were aware of the negative health consequences associated with being underweight. It is interesting, however, that they are aware that maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be a challenge and this may result in a barrier to adopting healthier practices.

I: What about the other end of the scale, you know if you've got overweight being fat on this side what about being underweight at this end? *: It's bad cos you're all bony and you can't do anything cos you're not strong enough, you're weak. *: So you need to be in the middle. I: Is it easy to stay in the middle? *: No, because sometimes you can't be bothered to eat well and exercise. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

Within the theme of role models, there was some evidence of a difference between the genders in terms of available role models. The participating boys often cited football heroes as people whom they looked up to and aspired to be like. This highlights the role of the celebrity in providing a role model for today's children; the evidence from the participants in this study may suggest that typically boys look to footballers and other sporting heroes. It can be argued that such individuals do not always provide a strong moral code; they are seen as following a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise. It would seem that the female participants in this study often looked up to celebrities who weren't so explicitly seen to be following healthy lifestyles, or a sense of caution was attached to following healthier behaviours.

*: Yeah like Wayne Rooney. I: And why is he fit? *: Cos he's good at footballing. I: Do you think that they have to eat special food? *: Yes I: And what special food do they have to eat? *: Bananas and apples. Boys reception *: Actually you can put weight on running cos muscle weighs more than fat so you can put weight on—like Katie Price she put on 10 pounds cos she started running. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

Another interesting aspect of the notion of role models’ is that the girls were more concerned with how they appeared in a physical sense; it was particularly striking that the Year 6 boys identified unhealthy behaviour in their female peers attributing this to a desire to be like models.

*: Yes, she wants to be a model so she starves herself, her mam gives her a big packed lunch and she puts most of it in the bin, she's like that skinny then she walks out of the dinner hall. Boys year 6 Open in a separate window

There were many aspects of the transcript that highlighted participants were aware that being underweight was as worrying as being overweight. However, across the board they were far more critical of individuals who were overweight and discussed wide ranging consequences for these individuals, this leads on to the next theme evident in the analysis.

There was a united consensus that being fat was something to avoid, that it was a bad thing, and had typically negative consequences. Elements of this theme have been demonstrated throughout the discussion of the previous two themes; however, this illustrates how their understanding impacts on their attitudes toward obesity.

*: Like all the fat goes through your blood and stuff. *: Like sugar, like all the sugar goes through your blood if you eat too much of it would clog up your arteries and you might die. Boys year 6 I: Like how? What would happen to you? Is something going to happen straight away or is it something that's going to happen to. *: You would get rotten teeth and you would not be as strong as you would be if you ate healthy and stuff. *: You could die. Girls year 6 *: Because fat would be horrible. *: Because it's bad for you, because it looks bad. *: Because people call you big fat. Girls reception Open in a separate window

In addition to the health issues and those relating to physical attractiveness were the issues of bullying and social exclusion, which seemed to play a big role in the children's understandings of what it would be like to be overweight. The stigma attached to being overweight is evident as participants often started giggling when talking about people being overweight.

I: Is it important to eat things that are good for you? *: Laughter I: What do you think happens to you if you eat lots of these biscuits? *: Fat I: And what good would stop you from getting fat, or would help you not be fat? *: Giggling Boys reception Open in a separate window

Inability to have a successful career and even death were understood to be the results of obesity. Participants felt people who were overweight were in some way bad or an embarrassment. There was even a sense of fear toward people who they considered overweight, indicating that they would avoid being seen with somebody who was obese.

I: So … so what do you think about being fat, like if you see somebody in the street who looks like they are not very healthy do you think? *: They can't do much, like most of the things you want to do in life, like swimming, jogging. *: Jobs when you grow older. Girls year 6 *: Like if my parents were proper massive and I went to the town with them I would just say they took me to the town and I don't know them. Boys year 6 Open in a separate window

It is clear that the participants’ understanding is that obesity is a very negative issue. However, there is also evidence that they understand the complexity of the condition and are also aware being underweight maybe as much of a problem. The older children in this study seemed to understand that it is a complex issue and fully grasped the concept of moderation. They often refer to the fact that you can have a small amount of things that maybe classified as unhealthy, as long as you don't eat them all the time or balance them out with exercise.

I: And what sort of things for eating well? *: Like fruit and vegetables. *: Some Sugar. *: If you eat vegetables and fruit and you might get back to underweight. *: And you want to be in the middle. *: You need a bit of fat on you. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

This category of Fat is Bad highlights an issue that clouds all the children's understandings of issues surrounding obesity and that is of conflicting messages. This notion of mixed messages forms the final theme evident in the data.

Mixed messages

The evidence presented here would suggest the information intended to educate and inform children is often met with equal amounts of contradictory or confusing messages and behaviours. The result of this is easily demonstrated by comparing what the children know they should be doing with what they actually talk about doing. For the majority of the participants their knowledge did not always match with their described behaviour, their food preferences often overriding their knowledge. This was perhaps not so surprising; knowledge does not by any means dictate behaviour.

I: Do you have breakfast most mornings? Do you normally have some breakfast, what do you normally have for breakfast? *: Miss I have chocolate cookies. I: What did you have for your tea last night? *: I just had for my supper. I: What did you have last night for your supper? *: Err sandwiches, cake and I: What about what did you have last night for your tea? *: Pizza Girls reception I: You eat two, two pieces of fruit? *: Yes, cos my mam chops it into two halves. Boys reception Open in a separate window

Conflict existed in a number of forms in the understandings expressed by the participants. It is worth reiterating that the younger girls who participated believed treatment for obesity was to go to the hospital and have an operation—something they have picked up from a TV documentary—this conflicts with diet and exercise education they receive at school. Other participants gave more specific and direct examples of receiving contradictory information. This ranged from conflicts in direct health messages to conflicting information and action between school and home. They felt that at times it was difficult to know which information was the right information, not only was it conflicting but it was forever changing.

*: And people say if you make fruit smoothies its healthy for you but it said in the news something about being obese again it said that if you drink a smoothie one a day you'll put on 13 pounds, that's nearly a stone in a year. Boys year 6 I: What about at home? You know if you're taught all this stuff at school what happens when you go home? Do Mum and Dad teach you the same things or is it different? *: Different I: And why is it different? *: I eat more sweets. Girls year 6 Open in a separate window

In addition to this, older children also pointed out they felt that healthy lifestyle information wasn't always delivered in the correct manner, there was a belief that stigmatising people who were overweight was negative. There was an awareness that there is a psychological aspect to overeating, and in some individuals it is this that needs to be addressed. Moreover, there was a feeling again demonstrated solely by the older participants that being overweight/obese could be difficult to rectify and maintaining a healthy weight could be a challenge.

*: So you need to be in the middle. I: Is it easy to stay in the middle? *: No, because sometimes you can't be bothered to eat well and exercise. Girls year 6 I: Do you think it's quite easy to lose weight? *: Yes *: Well for some people. *: If you put your mind to it, it is. I: No go on cos everyone's got different ideas. *: You can't just lose weight quickly. *: Cos my dad when he was young he was obese so he told me, but he's sort of addicted really. *: Addicted to what. *: Addicted he cannot stop but he's trying. *: He cannot stop what. *: Eating when he was young, he like learnt now he's saying to me about being fit cos he tells me about what happened when he was young so I try it. Boys year 6 Open in a separate window

This understanding of the complex nature of the obesity problem, coupled with the confusion and conflict in both the information and behaviours the participants are exposed to, can help explain some of the barriers to individuals adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Comprehensive understanding

The results detailed above highlight some important findings as to how children understand obesity in terms of some of its causes and consequences. It was particularly clear that knowledge, often imparted in a school setting, is getting through to the children who participated in this study. However, it appears equally evident that this knowledge in many cases does not transfer to behaviour. Further examination of the results allows us to explore the potential reasons behind the knowledge-behaviour gap.

Role models by their nature provide examples for both the children's beliefs and their behaviour. There are a wide variety of potential role models for children from parents, teachers, peers, and celebrities. What seems particularly important, in terms of being a positive role model with regards to healthy lifestyles, is that children have an opportunity to view the process of being healthy. In this study, this was typified by the examples of the Year 6 boys who participated in sport with their fathers. It appears this close and active relationship allows the knowledge that has been started at school to grow. Allowing children the opportunity to apply their knowledge and see the steps taken by a role model to get or stay fit help translate this knowledge into behaviour. What is interesting, however, is that it seems passive behaviours by role models can have the same impact. It was the case with these participants that the effect of passive knowledge transfer seemed to be more negative, but that is by no means to say that passive behaviours by role models will not also encourage positive lifestyle behaviours in other cases. The most obvious example of this within this data set was the seemingly implicit messages that the girls received about being skinny. There was not an overtly explicit attempt on the behalf of the role models described here to encourage a “skinny” ideal; however, messages seemed to reach the participants that would indicate this is the case. The key difference between these active and passive role models appears to come from whether the role models place focus on the process; taking part in sport (in the example of the older boys) or outcome being skinny (in the example of the girls). Focus on the action of being physically active or enjoying a healthy diet in the case of these participants produces a healthier outlook on maintaining a healthy body weight. When that focus is on the outcome—the weight loss or the weight gain—there seems to be less concern for actually “being healthy” in terms of body weight and lifestyle. This notion about process and outcome is intrinsically linked to the theme of Fat is Bad.

It is interesting to note that whilst the children expressed an understanding of fat as a component of diet and were able to identify high fat foods and their link to obesity, the focus was on fat as an outcome and not so much about it as input. It is a well-documented fact that fat is a requirement of a balanced diet. The participants were able to recite in great detail the consequences of becoming fat but were not so forthright about the processes involved in becoming fat. It can be suggested that by focussing on the process of becoming fat and understanding the need for fat in moderation and being physically active it may help to discourage fat becoming the output. This may also help to draw away the focus from physical appearance that is so closely tied to the stigma attached to being overweight and place it on living a healthy lifestyle and being healthy.

The key finding of this study is that it is evident that children receive contradictory messages when it comes to following a healthy diet and taking part in exercise. The research presented here highlights children's understandings of some of the causes of obesity and the consequences of becoming overweight. However, it is equally evident that this information has reached them on a knowledge level but has not or cannot be fully translated into behaviour. It appears that central to this problem are the multiple discourses that exist around diet and exercise. Whilst government campaigns may impart facts and figures and provide advice on changes that can be made, there are a whole host of other sources to contend with. There is an undoubted role played by the media both in terms of active advertising campaigns for junk food or sedentary games and the passive portrayal of unattainable body shapes and sizes in magazines and by celebrity culture. However, more than this, health messages are competing against a variety of cultural values, social, and personal norms that may well go against messages that encourage certain behaviours. What is more is that ultimately individuals have the power and autonomy to make their own choices about diet and exercise. Stakeholders need to ensure that people are in a position to make an informed decision and not one where their judgement is clouded by an array of contradicting messages. There is also a responsibility to ensure that individuals are able to act on advice given and to provide advice that is relevant and tailored to individual circumstances. It is easy to understand why parents on a low income may struggle to incorporate “5 a day” into their families diets when they perhaps don't have access to a car and the nearest shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables is several miles away. Ensuring people know that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good and, in some cases better, is a far more useful and usable message.

Comparisons with past research

The objective of this study was to explore children's understandings of obesity in terms of diet and physical activity; the children included were considered high risk because of their socio-economic status. To meet this objective, focus group data was analysed using thematic analysis. This analysis produced key themes pertaining to the understandings of the participants. There is not a wealth of prior research in this domain and it was for this reason thematic analysis was chosen to analyse the data. The method proved to be particularly useful in generating these exploratory data that are discussed here in relation to previous findings.

The theme of knowledge has previously been identified by Hesketh et al. ( 2005 ) in terms of information and awareness that is pertinent to children's perceptions of healthy eating, activity, and preventing obesity. Increasing knowledge relating to diet and physical activity cannot prevent obesity but it can encourage children to make informed choices.

This study, as have others (Hesketh et al., 2005 ; Borra et al., 2003 ; Musaiger, Mater, Alekri, & Mahdi, 1991 ), identified misunderstandings in children's knowledge as barriers to healthful behaviour. It might be useful to address this issue, particularly with younger children who are developing their knowledge. Previous literature has identified young children often consume their recommended daily intake of fruit but fall well short when it comes to vegetables (Dennison, Rockwell, & Baker, 1998 ). Government campaigns encourage people to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day ( www.5aday.nhs.co.uk ); however, nutritionists would encourage three portions of vegetables and two of fruit—fruit having high sugar content. There was no evidence in the transcripts that any of the children were aware of or understood this distinction. This needs further investigation; however, education should encourage an understanding of fruit and vegetables as separate entities to help increase the consumption of vegetables (Gibson, Wardle, & Watts, 1998 ).

The evidence in this study suggests children grasp the causes of obesity, overeating, and low levels of physical activity; however, there was a general lack of understanding of the underlying physiological processes. There was a limited understanding of the concept of energy balance or that there might also be medical reasons for the obesity. Bell and Morgan ( 2000 ) demonstrated providing medical explanations for obesity can have a positive effect on children's attitudes to obese individuals. Overweight individuals were generally stigmatised by the participants in this study, so providing better medical information could help to alleviate these negative attitudes. It is fair to say those children who did have more in-depth knowledge of obesity were more sympathetic in their considerations of overweight individuals acknowledging the difficulty in making lifestyle changes.

The influence of parents concerning diet and exercise behaviours is well documented (Prout, 1996 ). Hesketh et al. (2005), Borra et al. (2003), and Young-Hyman et al. ( 2000 ) consider parental influence to be a determining factor in children's attitudes and understandings of obesity. It is clear this influence can be as detrimental as it can be beneficial. Previous research (Borra et al., 2003 ) argues interventions need to be developed that consider the role of the parent. Children cannot be expected to apply the information they receive at school to themselves if it is not reiterated at home. Nutritional education and physical education have not formed a core or extensive part of school curriculums in the United Kingdom in previous years, and there is now a generation of young parents who do not have the skills to attractively present appropriate foods (Tuttle & Truswell, 2002 ) or who regularly take part in sport themselves. The impact of this on their children's behaviour is that they don't always have examples of healthy behaviour to model their own on.

Of particular importance was the finding that children feel that they often receive mixed and contradicting messages. This is of great relevance when considering the development of policies and strategies that can be more effective. More over this backs up the findings of Dorey and McCool ( 2009 ) who conclude that nutritional messages evident in health promotion and advertising were often perceived by child audiences to be ambiguous. The authors warn that these contradictory messages could potentially serve to weaken the trustworthiness viewers have in health promotion initiatives. This really points to a key area in which health professionals can target efforts to tackle obesity. Clarity and consistency in healthy messages and recommendations are central to helping people take on board and act on the information they receive. Contradiction allows room for people to question the advice given and when effort is required to make a change in behaviour that change is less likely to be made if there is reason to doubt the accuracy of information. Furthermore, coherent messages need to consider person specific factors that may inhibit behaviour change; when individuals are encouraged to behave in a certain way but the constraints of day-to-day life lead to another, the results are confusion and hostility to the initial message (Owens & Driffill, 2008 ).

Procedural issues

The main methodological issue arising was participants from Reception struggled to engage fully in conversation, and the sessions followed a structure more a kin to an interview (i.e., question and answer). It was difficult to encourage responses that were longer than a few words; often one word responses were given. There is the potential to gain some very useful information from children in this age group; however, it can be a long and time-consuming process to elicit enough information to make the analysis process worthwhile. The length of the sessions also must be kept relatively short because attention spans are not long lasting; this was a finding similar to that of Miller ( 2000 ). The replica food items selected to help provide structure to the focus groups were useful and did provide a catalyst for discussion; however, for very young children (i.e., those in Reception) they resemble toys too closely, this then leads to them becoming more of a distraction, hindering the discussion. The use of the picture cards and pens and paper as suggested by Backett and Alexander ( 1991 ) provided a more a suitable means of structuring focus groups for young children.

There were at times issues with certain members of the groups making themselves heard more than others, thus the researcher had to encourage those happier to sit back and let others take the lead (Kirk, 2007 ). However, through a little encouragement all participants appeared comfortable talking with each other and participated equally, a result of the careful selection process. It also appeared to be beneficial speaking to boys and girls separately, with the boys often more excitable in their discussion style in comparison to the girls. It also facilitated the identification of some important issues, for example, the Year 6 boys identified eating behaviours present in the Year 6 girls that the girls themselves did not discuss.

Implications for the future

The Foresight Report (Department of Innovation Universities and Skills, 2007 ), in tackling obesity, points out that current policies are failing because they do not provide the depth and range of interventions needed. This present study has determined that central to children's understandings of the causes and consequences of obesity are the concepts of knowledge, the opportunity to apply this knowledge to their own lives, and the existence of role models to set an example. There exist certain myths and misconceptions that need to be addressed and children need to believe they can trust the health messages they receive because they are aware some messages are misleading or forever changing.

The key to this issue seems to be children learn by example, they can have all the knowledge in the world provided to them through an institution such as a school but this information needs to be supported by life at home. This provides evidence that campaigns need to target parents to tackle childhood obesity; this is an issue that policy makers are already aware of ( National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2006 ). However, this means health messages delivered to the general public need to be clearer and avoid ambiguity. There needs to be careful considerations of the context in which health messages are received, taking into account the understandings of the target population (Hesketh et al., 2005).

There were some issues raised in the focus group that were beyond the scope of this particular study. There was a representation of different ethnic minorities in the groups, and slight differences in the understandings of these different groups were identified. Further research should investigate the understandings of different minority groups to see if ethnicity influences or results in divergent concepts. Future study also needs to look at strategies that enable children to apply healthy lifestyle information to their own lives.

Children spend, on average, a quarter of their waking lives in schools; therefore, schools can be seen as an effective environment and source to help encourage healthy lifestyles. However, that leaves three quarters of a child's time in which they are out of the control of the school environment. Strategies must be developed to unite the teaching at school with practices in the home. This supports the conclusions of Hughes, Sherman, and Whitaker ( 2010 ) who write that strategies need to be framed in a manner that makes low income mothers feel more supported in addressing issues their children may have with their weight. Ensuring that approaches to encourage healthy lives take on a holistic format will also help to provide consistent and realistic role models. There needs to be a concerted effort from within society to develop role models who have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. These seem to already exist for young boys in the form of sporting heroes but seem in short supply for young girls who already consider that being healthy is the ideal but then look to surgery as a form of weight loss. Lieberman, Gauvin, Bukowski, and White ( 2001 ) highlight the importance of role models and peer influence in the onset of disordered eating in young girls and this needs to be seriously taken into account when sending out messages that being overweight is bad, girls need to be aware that being underweight also has severe health consequences.

In conclusion, the time children spend eating and taking part in physical activity out of school is likely to be the biggest challenge to preventing the continuing obesity problems in the United Kingdom, and this is where current strategies appear to be failing. Children understand obesity and its contributing factors in terms set out to them by those people they consider role models. It is only by helping these role models to provide consistent and reliable information by setting suitable active examples and by being aware of the impact of their passive actions that we can begin to address the problem of obesity.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Sunderland Children's Centres and Back on the Map for their support in facilitating this research.

Conflict of interest and funding

The author have not received any funding or benefits from industry or elsewhere to conduct this study

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Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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  • 12 February 2024

China conducts first nationwide review of retractions and research misconduct

  • Smriti Mallapaty

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The reputation of Chinese science has been "adversely affected" by the number of retractions in recent years, according to a government notice. Credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg/Getty

Chinese universities are days away from the deadline to complete a nationwide audit of retracted research papers and probe of research misconduct. By 15 February, universities must submit to the government a comprehensive list of all academic articles retracted from English- and Chinese-language journals in the past three years. They need to clarify why the papers were retracted and investigate cases involving misconduct, according to a 20 November notice from the Ministry of Education’s Department of Science, Technology and Informatization.

The government launched the nationwide self-review in response to Hindawi, a London-based subsidiary of the publisher Wiley, retracting a large number of papers by Chinese authors. These retractions, along with those from other publishers, “have adversely affected our country’s academic reputation and academic environment”, the notice states.

A Nature analysis shows that last year, Hindawi issued more than 9,600 retractions, of which the vast majority — about 8,200 — had a co-author in China. Nearly 14,000 retraction notices, of which some three-quarters involved a Chinese co-author, were issued by all publishers in 2023.

This is “the first time we’ve seen such a national operation on retraction investigations”, says Xiaotian Chen, a library and information scientist at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, who has studied retractions and research misconduct in China. Previous investigations have largely been carried out on a case-by-case basis — but this time, all institutions have to conduct their investigations simultaneously, says Chen.

Tight deadline

The ministry’s notice set off a chain of alerts, cascading to individual university departments. Bulletins posted on university websites required researchers to submit their retractions by a range of dates, mostly in January — leaving time for universities to collate and present the data.

Although the alerts included lists of retractions that the ministry or the universities were aware of, they also called for unlisted retractions to be added.

research article analysis paper

More than 10,000 research papers were retracted in 2023 — a new record

According to Nature ’s analysis, which includes only English-language journals, more than 17,000 retraction notices for papers published by Chinese co-authors have been issued since 1 January 2021, which is the start of the period of review specified in the notice. The analysis, an update of one conducted in December , used the Retraction Watch database, augmented with retraction notices collated from the Dimensions database, and involved assistance from Guillaume Cabanac, a computer scientist at the University of Toulouse in France. It is unclear whether the official lists contain the same number of retracted papers.

Regardless, the timing to submit the information will be tight, says Shu Fei, a bibliometrics scientist at Hangzhou Dianzi University in China. The ministry gave universities less than three months to complete their self-review — and this was cut shorter by the academic winter break, which typically starts in mid-January and concludes after the Chinese New Year, which fell this year on 10 February.

“The timing is not good,” he says. Shu expects that universities are most likely to submit only a preliminary report of their researchers’ retracted papers included on the official lists.

But Wang Fei, who studies research-integrity policy at Dalian University of Technology in China, says that because the ministry has set a deadline, universities will work hard to submit their findings on time.

Researchers with retracted papers will have to explain whether the retraction was owing to misconduct, such as image manipulation, or an honest mistake, such as authors identifying errors in their own work, says Chen: “In other words, they may have to defend themselves.” Universities then must investigate and penalize misconduct. If a researcher fails to declare their retracted paper and it is later uncovered, they will be punished, according to the ministry notice. The cost of not reporting is high, says Chen. “This is a very serious measure.”

It is not known what form punishment might take, but in 2021, China’s National Health Commission posted the results of its investigations into a batch of retracted papers. Punishments included salary cuts, withdrawal of bonuses, demotions and timed suspensions from applying for research grants and rewards.

The notice states explicitly that the first corresponding author of a paper is responsible for submitting the response. This requirement will largely address the problem of researchers shirking responsibility for collaborative work, says Li Tang, a science- and innovation-policy researcher at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. The notice also emphasizes due process, says Tang. Researchers alleged to have committed misconduct have a right to appeal during the investigation.

The notice is a good approach for addressing misconduct, says Wang. Previous efforts by the Chinese government have stopped at issuing new research-integrity guidelines that were poorly implemented, she says. And when government bodies did launch self-investigations of published literature, they were narrower in scope and lacked clear objectives. This time, the target is clear — retractions — and the scope is broad, involving the entire university research community, she says.

“Cultivating research integrity takes time, but China is on the right track,” says Tang.

It is not clear what the ministry will do with the flurry of submissions. Wang says that, because the retraction notices are already freely available, publicizing the collated lists and underlying reasons for retraction could be useful. She hopes that a similar review will be conducted every year “to put more pressure” on authors and universities to monitor research integrity.

What happens next will reveal how seriously the ministry regards research misconduct, says Shu. He suggests that, if the ministry does not take further action after the Chinese New Year, the notice could be an attempt to respond to the reputational damage caused by the mass retractions last year.

The ministry did not respond to Nature ’s questions about the misconduct investigation.

Chen says that, regardless of what the ministry does with the information, the reporting process itself will help to curb misconduct because it is “embarrassing to the people in the report”.

But it might primarily affect researchers publishing in English-language journals. Retraction notices in Chinese-language journals are rare.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-024-00397-x

Data analysis by Richard Van Noorden.

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This paper is in the following e-collection/theme issue:

Published on 7.2.2024 in Vol 26 (2024)

Table Correction: Effectiveness of eHealth Smoking Cessation Interventions: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Authors of this article:

Author Orcid Image

Corrigenda and Addenda

  • Yichen E Fang 1 , BA, BSc   ; 
  • Zhixian Zhang 1 , BA   ; 
  • Ray Wang 1 , MSc   ; 
  • Bolu Yang 1 , MSc   ; 
  • Chen Chen 2 , PhD   ; 
  • Claudia Nisa 1, 3 , PhD   ; 
  • Xin Tong 1, 4 , PhD   ; 
  • Lijing L Yan 1, 2, 5, 6 , PhD  

1 Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China

2 Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

3 Division of Social Sciences, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China

4 Data Science Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, China

5 Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States

6 Institute for Global Health and Development, Peking University, Beijing, China

Corresponding Author:

Lijing L Yan, PhD

Global Health Research Center

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3rd floor, Academic Building

Kunshan, 215316

Phone: 86 0 512 5777 9

Email: [email protected]

Related Article Correction of: https://www.jmir.org/2023/1/e45111 J Med Internet Res 2024;26:e56438 doi:10.2196/56438

In “Effectiveness of eHealth Smoking Cessation Interventions: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” (J Med Internet Res 2023;25:e45111) the authors noted three errors associated with the cited paper by Bricker et al [ 1 ] in Table 5.

In Table 5 row “Bricker et al” of the originally published manuscript, there were several errors.

1) The number of quits and smoking participants at 12-month follow-up in the intervention group was entered incorrectly as "12 months: 256” in “Intervention quit, n” column and “12 months: 856” in “Intervention smoking, n” column. The numbers have been replaced by “12 months: 356” in “Intervention quit, n” column and “12 months: 858” in “Intervention smoking, n”.

This error then led to the following:

2) The incorrect number of “12 months: 0.92 (0.79-1.06)” in the “RR 95% CI” column

3) The incorrect statement of “No significant increase on cessation outcome at 12 months follow-ups; significant increase on cessation outcome at 3- and 6-month follow-ups” in the “Summary of outcome” column

The entry in column “RR 95% CI” has now been corrected to “12 months: RR=1.17 (1.02-1.33)” and the entry in column “Summary of outcome” has now been corrected to “significant increase in cessation outcome at 3-, 6- and 12-month follow-ups”.

The error did not affect any other part of the paper as the error happened during the final formatting stage on the authors’ end and the manuscript content was drafted with the correct numbers.

The correction will appear in the online version of the paper on the JMIR Publications website on February 7, 2024, together with the publication of this correction notice. Because this was made after submission to PubMed, PubMed Central, and other full-text repositories, the corrected article has also been resubmitted to those repositories.

  • Bricker JB, Watson NL, Mull KE, Sullivan BM, Heffner JL. Efficacy of smartphone applications for smoking cessation: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. Nov 01, 2020;180(11):1472-1480. [ FREE Full text ] [ CrossRef ] [ Medline ]

This is a non–peer-reviewed article. submitted 16.01.24; accepted 18.01.24; published 07.02.24.

©Yichen E Fang, Zhixian Zhang, Ray Wang, Bolu Yang, Chen Chen, Claudia Nisa, Xin Tong, Lijing L Yan. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 07.02.2024.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

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Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Over the last year, the speed, scale, and sophistication of attacks has increased alongside the rapid development and adoption of AI. Defenders are only beginning to recognize and apply the power of generative AI to shift the cybersecurity balance in their favor and keep ahead of adversaries. At the same time, it is also important for us to understand how AI can be potentially misused in the hands of threat actors. In collaboration with OpenAI, today we are publishing research on emerging threats in the age of AI, focusing on identified activity associated with known threat actors, including prompt-injections, attempted misuse of large language models (LLM), and fraud. Our analysis of the current use of LLM technology by threat actors revealed behaviors consistent with attackers using AI as another productivity tool on the offensive landscape. You can read OpenAI’s blog on the research here . Microsoft and OpenAI have not yet observed particularly novel or unique AI-enabled attack or abuse techniques resulting from threat actors’ usage of AI. However, Microsoft and our partners continue to study this landscape closely.

The objective of Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, including the release of this research, is to ensure the safe and responsible use of AI technologies like ChatGPT, upholding the highest standards of ethical application to protect the community from potential misuse. As part of this commitment, we have taken measures to disrupt assets and accounts associated with threat actors, improve the protection of OpenAI LLM technology and users from attack or abuse, and shape the guardrails and safety mechanisms around our models. In addition, we are also deeply committed to using generative AI to disrupt threat actors and leverage the power of new tools, including Microsoft Copilot for Security , to elevate defenders everywhere.

A principled approach to detecting and blocking threat actors

The progress of technology creates a demand for strong cybersecurity and safety measures. For example, the White House’s Executive Order on AI requires rigorous safety testing and government supervision for AI systems that have major impacts on national and economic security or public health and safety. Our actions enhancing the safeguards of our AI models and partnering with our ecosystem on the safe creation, implementation, and use of these models align with the Executive Order’s request for comprehensive AI safety and security standards.

In line with Microsoft’s leadership across AI and cybersecurity, today we are announcing principles shaping Microsoft’s policy and actions mitigating the risks associated with the use of our AI tools and APIs by nation-state advanced persistent threats (APTs), advanced persistent manipulators (APMs), and cybercriminal syndicates we track.

These principles include:   

  • Identification and action against malicious threat actors’ use: Upon detection of the use of any Microsoft AI application programming interfaces (APIs), services, or systems by an identified malicious threat actor, including nation-state APT or APM, or the cybercrime syndicates we track, Microsoft will take appropriate action to disrupt their activities, such as disabling the accounts used, terminating services, or limiting access to resources.           
  • Notification to other AI service providers: When we detect a threat actor’s use of another service provider’s AI, AI APIs, services, and/or systems, Microsoft will promptly notify the service provider and share relevant data. This enables the service provider to independently verify our findings and take action in accordance with their own policies.
  • Collaboration with other stakeholders: Microsoft will collaborate with other stakeholders to regularly exchange information about detected threat actors’ use of AI. This collaboration aims to promote collective, consistent, and effective responses to ecosystem-wide risks.
  • Transparency: As part of our ongoing efforts to advance responsible use of AI, Microsoft will inform the public and stakeholders about actions taken under these threat actor principles, including the nature and extent of threat actors’ use of AI detected within our systems and the measures taken against them, as appropriate.

Microsoft remains committed to responsible AI innovation, prioritizing the safety and integrity of our technologies with respect for human rights and ethical standards. These principles announced today build on Microsoft’s Responsible AI practices , our voluntary commitments to advance responsible AI innovation and the Azure OpenAI Code of Conduct . We are following these principles as part of our broader commitments to strengthening international law and norms and to advance the goals of the Bletchley Declaration endorsed by 29 countries.

Microsoft and OpenAI’s complementary defenses protect AI platforms

Because Microsoft and OpenAI’s partnership extends to security, the companies can take action when known and emerging threat actors surface. Microsoft Threat Intelligence tracks more than 300 unique threat actors, including 160 nation-state actors, 50 ransomware groups, and many others. These adversaries employ various digital identities and attack infrastructures. Microsoft’s experts and automated systems continually analyze and correlate these attributes, uncovering attackers’ efforts to evade detection or expand their capabilities by leveraging new technologies. Consistent with preventing threat actors’ actions across our technologies and working closely with partners, Microsoft continues to study threat actors’ use of AI and LLMs, partner with OpenAI to monitor attack activity, and apply what we learn to continually improve defenses. This blog provides an overview of observed activities collected from known threat actor infrastructure as identified by Microsoft Threat Intelligence, then shared with OpenAI to identify potential malicious use or abuse of their platform and protect our mutual customers from future threats or harm.

Recognizing the rapid growth of AI and emergent use of LLMs in cyber operations, we continue to work with MITRE to integrate these LLM-themed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) into the MITRE ATT&CK® framework or MITRE ATLAS™ (Adversarial Threat Landscape for Artificial-Intelligence Systems) knowledgebase. This strategic expansion reflects a commitment to not only track and neutralize threats, but also to pioneer the development of countermeasures in the evolving landscape of AI-powered cyber operations. A full list of the LLM-themed TTPs, which include those we identified during our investigations, is summarized in the appendix.

Summary of Microsoft and OpenAI’s findings and threat intelligence

The threat ecosystem over the last several years has revealed a consistent theme of threat actors following trends in technology in parallel with their defender counterparts. Threat actors, like defenders, are looking at AI, including LLMs, to enhance their productivity and take advantage of accessible platforms that could advance their objectives and attack techniques. Cybercrime groups, nation-state threat actors, and other adversaries are exploring and testing different AI technologies as they emerge, in an attempt to understand potential value to their operations and the security controls they may need to circumvent. On the defender side, hardening these same security controls from attacks and implementing equally sophisticated monitoring that anticipates and blocks malicious activity is vital.

While different threat actors’ motives and complexity vary, they have common tasks to perform in the course of targeting and attacks. These include reconnaissance, such as learning about potential victims’ industries, locations, and relationships; help with coding, including improving things like software scripts and malware development; and assistance with learning and using native languages. Language support is a natural feature of LLMs and is attractive for threat actors with continuous focus on social engineering and other techniques relying on false, deceptive communications tailored to their targets’ jobs, professional networks, and other relationships.

Importantly, our research with OpenAI has not identified significant attacks employing the LLMs we monitor closely. At the same time, we feel this is important research to publish to expose early-stage, incremental moves that we observe well-known threat actors attempting, and share information on how we are blocking and countering them with the defender community.

While attackers will remain interested in AI and probe technologies’ current capabilities and security controls, it’s important to keep these risks in context. As always, hygiene practices such as multifactor authentication (MFA ) and Zero Trust defenses are essential because attackers may use AI-based tools to improve their existing cyberattacks that rely on social engineering and finding unsecured devices and accounts.

The threat actors profiled below are a sample of observed activity we believe best represents the TTPs the industry will need to better track using MITRE ATT&CK® framework or MITRE ATLAS™ knowledgebase updates.

Forest Blizzard 

Forest Blizzard (STRONTIUM) is a Russian military intelligence actor linked to GRU Unit 26165, who has targeted victims of both tactical and strategic interest to the Russian government. Their activities span across a variety of sectors including defense, transportation/logistics, government, energy, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and information technology. Forest Blizzard has been extremely active in targeting organizations in and related to Russia’s war in Ukraine throughout the duration of the conflict, and Microsoft assesses that Forest Blizzard operations play a significant supporting role to Russia’s foreign policy and military objectives both in Ukraine and in the broader international community. Forest Blizzard overlaps with the threat actor tracked by other researchers as APT28 and Fancy Bear.

Forest Blizzard’s use of LLMs has involved research into various satellite and radar technologies that may pertain to conventional military operations in Ukraine, as well as generic research aimed at supporting their cyber operations. Based on these observations, we map and classify these TTPs using the following descriptions:

  • LLM-informed reconnaissance: Interacting with LLMs to understand satellite communication protocols, radar imaging technologies, and specific technical parameters. These queries suggest an attempt to acquire in-depth knowledge of satellite capabilities.
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques: Seeking assistance in basic scripting tasks, including file manipulation, data selection, regular expressions, and multiprocessing, to potentially automate or optimize technical operations.

Similar to Salmon Typhoon’s LLM interactions, Microsoft observed engagement from Forest Blizzard that were representative of an adversary exploring the use cases of a new technology. As with other adversaries, all accounts and assets associated with Forest Blizzard have been disabled.

Emerald Sleet

Emerald Sleet (THALLIUM) is a North Korean threat actor that has remained highly active throughout 2023. Their recent operations relied on spear-phishing emails to compromise and gather intelligence from prominent individuals with expertise on North Korea. Microsoft observed Emerald Sleet impersonating reputable academic institutions and NGOs to lure victims into replying with expert insights and commentary about foreign policies related to North Korea. Emerald Sleet overlaps with threat actors tracked by other researchers as Kimsuky and Velvet Chollima.

Emerald Sleet’s use of LLMs has been in support of this activity and involved research into think tanks and experts on North Korea, as well as the generation of content likely to be used in spear-phishing campaigns. Emerald Sleet also interacted with LLMs to understand publicly known vulnerabilities, to troubleshoot technical issues, and for assistance with using various web technologies. Based on these observations, we map and classify these TTPs using the following descriptions:

  • LLM-assisted vulnerability research: Interacting with LLMs to better understand publicly reported vulnerabilities, such as the CVE-2022-30190 Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) vulnerability (known as “Follina”).
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques : Using LLMs for basic scripting tasks such as programmatically identifying certain user events on a system and seeking assistance with troubleshooting and understanding various web technologies.
  • LLM-supported social engineering: Using LLMs for assistance with the drafting and generation of content that would likely be for use in spear-phishing campaigns against individuals with regional expertise.
  • LLM-informed reconnaissance: Interacting with LLMs to identify think tanks, government organizations, or experts on North Korea that have a focus on defense issues or North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program.

All accounts and assets associated with Emerald Sleet have been disabled.

Crimson Sandstorm

Crimson Sandstorm (CURIUM) is an Iranian threat actor assessed to be connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Active since at least 2017, Crimson Sandstorm has targeted multiple sectors, including defense, maritime shipping, transportation, healthcare, and technology. These operations have frequently relied on watering hole attacks and social engineering to deliver custom .NET malware. Prior research also identified custom Crimson Sandstorm malware using email-based command-and-control (C2) channels. Crimson Sandstorm overlaps with the threat actor tracked by other researchers as Tortoiseshell, Imperial Kitten, and Yellow Liderc.

The use of LLMs by Crimson Sandstorm has reflected the broader behaviors that the security community has observed from this threat actor. Interactions have involved requests for support around social engineering, assistance in troubleshooting errors, .NET development, and ways in which an attacker might evade detection when on a compromised machine. Based on these observations, we map and classify these TTPs using the following descriptions:

  • LLM-supported social engineering: Interacting with LLMs to generate various phishing emails, including one pretending to come from an international development agency and another attempting to lure prominent feminists to an attacker-built website on feminism. 
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques : Using LLMs to generate code snippets that appear intended to support app and web development, interactions with remote servers, web scraping, executing tasks when users sign in, and sending information from a system via email.
  • LLM-enhanced anomaly detection evasion: Attempting to use LLMs for assistance in developing code to evade detection, to learn how to disable antivirus via registry or Windows policies, and to delete files in a directory after an application has been closed.

All accounts and assets associated with Crimson Sandstorm have been disabled.

Charcoal Typhoon

Charcoal Typhoon (CHROMIUM) is a Chinese state-affiliated threat actor with a broad operational scope. They are known for targeting sectors that include government, higher education, communications infrastructure, oil & gas, and information technology. Their activities have predominantly focused on entities within Taiwan, Thailand, Mongolia, Malaysia, France, and Nepal, with observed interests extending to institutions and individuals globally who oppose China’s policies. Charcoal Typhoon overlaps with the threat actor tracked by other researchers as Aquatic Panda, ControlX, RedHotel, and BRONZE UNIVERSITY.

In recent operations, Charcoal Typhoon has been observed interacting with LLMs in ways that suggest a limited exploration of how LLMs can augment their technical operations. This has consisted of using LLMs to support tooling development, scripting, understanding various commodity cybersecurity tools, and for generating content that could be used to social engineer targets. Based on these observations, we map and classify these TTPs using the following descriptions:

  • LLM-informed reconnaissance : Engaging LLMs to research and understand specific technologies, platforms, and vulnerabilities, indicative of preliminary information-gathering stages.
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques : Utilizing LLMs to generate and refine scripts, potentially to streamline and automate complex cyber tasks and operations.
  • LLM-supported social engineering : Leveraging LLMs for assistance with translations and communication, likely to establish connections or manipulate targets.
  • LLM-refined operational command techniques : Utilizing LLMs for advanced commands, deeper system access, and control representative of post-compromise behavior.

All associated accounts and assets of Charcoal Typhoon have been disabled, reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding against the misuse of AI technologies.

Salmon Typhoon

Salmon Typhoon (SODIUM) is a sophisticated Chinese state-affiliated threat actor with a history of targeting US defense contractors, government agencies, and entities within the cryptographic technology sector. This threat actor has demonstrated its capabilities through the deployment of malware, such as Win32/Wkysol, to maintain remote access to compromised systems. With over a decade of operations marked by intermittent periods of dormancy and resurgence, Salmon Typhoon has recently shown renewed activity. Salmon Typhoon overlaps with the threat actor tracked by other researchers as APT4 and Maverick Panda.

Notably, Salmon Typhoon’s interactions with LLMs throughout 2023 appear exploratory and suggest that this threat actor is evaluating the effectiveness of LLMs in sourcing information on potentially sensitive topics, high profile individuals, regional geopolitics, US influence, and internal affairs. This tentative engagement with LLMs could reflect both a broadening of their intelligence-gathering toolkit and an experimental phase in assessing the capabilities of emerging technologies.

Based on these observations, we map and classify these TTPs using the following descriptions:

  • LLM-informed reconnaissance: Engaging LLMs for queries on a diverse array of subjects, such as global intelligence agencies, domestic concerns, notable individuals, cybersecurity matters, topics of strategic interest, and various threat actors. These interactions mirror the use of a search engine for public domain research.
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques: Using LLMs to identify and resolve coding errors. Requests for support in developing code with potential malicious intent were observed by Microsoft, and it was noted that the model adhered to established ethical guidelines, declining to provide such assistance.
  • LLM-refined operational command techniques: Demonstrating an interest in specific file types and concealment tactics within operating systems, indicative of an effort to refine operational command execution.
  • LLM-aided technical translation and explanation: Leveraging LLMs for the translation of computing terms and technical papers.

Salmon Typhoon’s engagement with LLMs aligns with patterns observed by Microsoft, reflecting traditional behaviors in a new technological arena. In response, all accounts and assets associated with Salmon Typhoon have been disabled.

In closing, AI technologies will continue to evolve and be studied by various threat actors. Microsoft will continue to track threat actors and malicious activity misusing LLMs, and work with OpenAI and other partners to share intelligence, improve protections for customers and aid the broader security community.

Appendix: LLM-themed TTPs

Using insights from our analysis above, as well as other potential misuse of AI, we’re sharing the below list of LLM-themed TTPs that we map and classify to the MITRE ATT&CK® framework or MITRE ATLAS™ knowledgebase to equip the community with a common taxonomy to collectively track malicious use of LLMs and create countermeasures against:

  • LLM-informed reconnaissance: Employing LLMs to gather actionable intelligence on technologies and potential vulnerabilities.
  • LLM-enhanced scripting techniques: Utilizing LLMs to generate or refine scripts that could be used in cyberattacks, or for basic scripting tasks such as programmatically identifying certain user events on a system and assistance with troubleshooting and understanding various web technologies.
  • LLM-aided development : Utilizing LLMs in the development lifecycle of tools and programs, including those with malicious intent, such as malware.
  • LLM-assisted vulnerability research : Using LLMs to understand and identify potential vulnerabilities in software and systems, which could be targeted for exploitation.
  • LLM-optimized payload crafting : Using LLMs to assist in creating and refining payloads for deployment in cyberattacks.
  • LLM-enhanced anomaly detection evasion : Leveraging LLMs to develop methods that help malicious activities blend in with normal behavior or traffic to evade detection systems.
  • LLM-directed security feature bypass : Using LLMs to find ways to circumvent security features, such as two-factor authentication, CAPTCHA, or other access controls.
  • LLM-advised resource development : Using LLMs in tool development, tool modifications, and strategic operational planning.

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OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today’s announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024 ).

“We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems,” says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.

But there’s a disclaimer. OpenAI gave us a preview of Sora (which means sky in Japanese) under conditions of strict secrecy. In an unusual move, the firm would only share information about Sora if we agreed to wait until after news of the model was made public to seek the opinions of outside experts. [Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with outside comment below.] OpenAI has not yet released a technical report or demonstrated the model actually working. And it says it won’t be releasing Sora anytime soon. [ Update: OpenAI has now shared more technical details on its website.]

The first generative models that could produce video from snippets of text appeared in late 2022. But early examples from Meta , Google, and a startup called Runway were glitchy and grainy. Since then, the tech has been getting better fast. Runway’s gen-2 model, released last year, can produce short clips that come close to matching big-studio animation in their quality. But most of these examples are still only a few seconds long.  

The sample videos from OpenAI’s Sora are high-definition and full of detail. OpenAI also says it can generate videos up to a minute long. One video of a Tokyo street scene shows that Sora has learned how objects fit together in 3D: the camera swoops into the scene to follow a couple as they walk past a row of shops.

OpenAI also claims that Sora handles occlusion well. One problem with existing models is that they can fail to keep track of objects when they drop out of view. For example, if a truck passes in front of a street sign, the sign might not reappear afterward.  

In a video of a papercraft underwater scene, Sora has added what look like cuts between different pieces of footage, and the model has maintained a consistent style between them.

It’s not perfect. In the Tokyo video, cars to the left look smaller than the people walking beside them. They also pop in and out between the tree branches. “There’s definitely some work to be done in terms of long-term coherence,” says Brooks. “For example, if someone goes out of view for a long time, they won’t come back. The model kind of forgets that they were supposed to be there.”

Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model’s typical output.   

It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI’s announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.

In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses of fake but photorealistic video . “We’re being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public,” says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm’s text-to-image model DALL-E .

But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. “The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of,” says Ramesh.

To build Sora, the team adapted the tech behind DALL-E 3, the latest version of OpenAI’s flagship text-to-image model. Like most text-to-image models, DALL-E 3 uses what’s known as a diffusion model. These are trained to turn a fuzz of random pixels into a picture.

Sora takes this approach and applies it to videos rather than still images. But the researchers also added another technique to the mix. Unlike DALL-E or most other generative video models, Sora combines its diffusion model with a type of neural network called a transformer.

Transformers are great at processing long sequences of data, like words. That has made them the special sauce inside large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google DeepMind’s Gemini . But videos are not made of words. Instead, the researchers had to find a way to cut videos into chunks that could be treated as if they were. The approach they came up with was to dice videos up across both space and time. “It’s like if you were to have a stack of all the video frames and you cut little cubes from it,” says Brooks.

The transformer inside Sora can then process these chunks of video data in much the same way that the transformer inside a large language model processes words in a block of text. The researchers say that this let them train Sora on many more types of video than other text-to-video models, varied in terms of resolution, duration, aspect ratio, and orientation. “It really helps the model,” says Brooks. “That is something that we’re not aware of any existing work on.”

“From a technical perspective it seems like a very significant leap forward,” says Sam Gregory, executive director at Witness, a human rights organization that specializes in the use and misuse of video technology. “But there are two sides to the coin,” he says. “The expressive capabilities offer the potential for many more people to be storytellers using video. And there are also real potential avenues for misuse.” 

OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images . Photorealistic video takes this to another level.

Gregory notes that you could use technology like this to misinform people about conflict zones or protests. The range of styles is also interesting, he says. If you could generate shaky footage that looked like something shot with a phone, it would come across as more authentic.

The tech is not there yet, but generative video has gone from zero to Sora in just 18 months. “We’re going to be entering a universe where there will be fully synthetic content, human-generated content and a mix of the two,” says Gregory.

The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI’s safety policies.

OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags , metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora’s output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.  

“We’ll definitely need to get more feedback and learn more about the types of risks that need to be addressed with video before it would make sense for us to release this,” says Ramesh.

Brooks agrees. “Part of the reason that we’re talking about this research now is so that we can start getting the input that we need to do the work necessary to figure out how it could be safely deployed,” he says.

Update 2/15: Comments from Sam Gregory were added .

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  17. Research articles

    Katsuki Hirai Article Open Access 12 Feb 2024 Association of perinatal factors with neurodevelopmental referrals in a population-based cohort study in Japan Yuki Kyono Masahiro Nishiyama Hiroaki...

  18. A Step-by-Step Process of Thematic Analysis to Develop a Conceptual

    Thematic analysis is a research method used to identify and interpret patterns or themes in a data set; it often leads to new insights and understanding (Boyatzis, 1998; Elliott, 2018; Thomas, 2006).However, it is critical that researchers avoid letting their own preconceptions interfere with the identification of key themes (Morse & Mitcham, 2002; Patton, 2015).

  19. Qualitative Research: Data Collection, Analysis, and Management

    INTRODUCTION. In an earlier paper, 1 we presented an introduction to using qualitative research methods in pharmacy practice. In this article, we review some principles of the collection, analysis, and management of qualitative data to help pharmacists interested in doing research in their practice to continue their learning in this area.

  20. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    The paper opens at its widest point; the introduction makes broad connections to the reader's interests, ... yourself, or the research and writing of others. Analysis You should never present evidence without some form of analysis, or explaining the meaning of what you have shown us. Even if the quote, idea, or statistic seems to speak for ...

  21. Analysis

    Analysis research involves several steps: Finding and collecting documents. Specifying criteria or patterns that you are looking for. Analyzing documents for patterns, noting number of occurrences or other factors.

  22. Statistics articles within Scientific Reports

    Haidy N. Mohamed , Ehab F. Abd-Elfattah & Abd El-Raheem M. Abd El-Raheem Article 05 February 2024 | Open Access Categorization of disaster-related deaths in Minamisoma city after the Fukushima...

  23. Children's understandings' of obesity, a thematic analysis

    Abstract. Childhood obesity is a major concern in today's society. Research suggests the inclusion of the views and understandings of a target group facilitates strategies that have better efficacy. The objective of this study was to explore the concepts and themes that make up children's understandings of the causes and consequences of obesity.

  24. Researching the White Paper

    Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position. Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting ...

  25. China conducts first nationwide review of retractions and research

    According to Nature's analysis, which includes only English-language journals, more than 17,000 retraction notices for papers published by Chinese co-authors have been issued since 1 January ...

  26. Journal of Medical Internet Research

    Journal of Medical Internet Research 8184 articles JMIR Research Protocols 3796 articles ... Effectiveness of eHealth Smoking Cessation Interventions: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Table Correction: Effectiveness of eHealth Smoking Cessation Interventions: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis ... This paper is in the following e-collection ...

  27. How technology is reinventing K-12 education

    Study finds public pension plans on shaky ground. New research calls attention to a huge funding gap and growing risk exposure, raising alarms about the long-term viability of government pensions.

  28. Staying ahead of threat actors in the age of AI

    Microsoft, in collaboration with OpenAI, is publishing research on emerging threats in the age of AI, focusing on identified activity associated with known threat actors Forest Blizzard, Emerald Sleet, Crimson Sandstorm, and others. The observed activity includes prompt-injections, attempted misuse of large language models (LLM), and fraud.

  29. OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

    OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.. Based on four ...