In this week's post I will explain how to find and use a model article. A model article can serve as a guide for how long each section of your article should be, how many tables or interview quotes you should include, and how many citations are necessary in your field.
Where to find a model articleYour model article should come from the journal where you will submit your article. It does not have to have the same topical focus as your article, but should use similar data. If your article is based on interviews, your model article should also have interviews as the primary source of data. If your article has a complex conceptual framework, you should search for a model article that also uses a complex conceptual framework. If your article uses archival data, so should your model article.
What to do with a model articleYour model article will help you figure out both the structure and the approximate lengths of each component of your article. Once you have chosen a model article, the next step is to make an outline of the article, taking note of the length of each section of the article.
Here is an example of how to create an outline, based on an article I published in 2010:
Golash-Boza, Tanya. 2010. “Does Whitening Happen? Distinguishing between Race and Color Labels in an African-Descended Community in Peru” Social Problems.
This article explores how race and color labels are used to describe people in an Afro-Peruvian community. This article is based on analyses of 88 interviews and eighteen months of fieldwork in an African-descended community in Peru. The analyses of these data reveal that, if we consider race and color to be conceptually distinct, there is no “mulatto escape hatch,” no social or cultural whitening, and no continuum of racial categories in the black Peruvian community under study. This article considers the implications of drawing a conceptual distinction between race and color for research on racial classifications in Latin America.
BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY
- Eight Interview quotes
- Three thematic sections (corresponding to lit review)
Implications for Future Research
As you can see, a model article can provide guidelines for common and not-so-common situations. It is a common issue for sociologists working with interview data to have to be selective about how many interview quotes to include in an article. In this article, I included eight interview quotes, which gives you a rough idea as to how many might be acceptable. A less-common situation is that you need to provide background information because of the relative unfamiliarity of the topic. As this article was based on research conducted in Peru, yet published in the United States, I included a background section on people of African descent in Peru. When searching for a model article, it is important to think about the particularities of your article and to try to find parallels in published articles.
Once you have created an outline, the next step is to match up the length of each section of your article with the sections of your model article. They don’t have to be exact, but if your model article has 1500 words in the lit review and 5000 in the results section, and your article has 3000 in the literature review and 3000 in the results section, that is an indication that you probably should present more data and condense your literature review.
You can create and use an outline based on a model article before you complete your article. In fact, having guidelines for the length of each section before you even begin can help you avoid the very common problem of writing an article that is far too long to be published.
I imagine some readers may feel as if their work is unconventional and does not fit into any mold. I understand and respect that position, but would like to gently remind readers that it is often best to learn the rules before one breaks them. Using a model article to imitate the structure (but not the content) of an article is one way to learn the unwritten rules of academic publishing.