The best way to understand how to organize and write a journal article is to look at the articles in one or two of the major journals and see how they are organized. Look for articles that are somewhat similar in their approach or methods, but any issue of ASR will give you a good idea of the structure. There is some flexibility, but there is also a clear general logic and sequence that journal reviewers and readers expect to find, and that allows people to skim quickly through articles and find what they want to learn. (You can “content-analyze” journal articles, and in fact Andrew Abbott has done so.)
The sequence of the final product bears very little relation to the order in which you are able to write the sections. Writing is a craft, and you can expect to work back and forth, to discover new things as you write, and then to organize the work into a coherent and logical product so a reader knows what you did, what you found, and why it was important. So regard the outline that follows as a place to put different parts of the paper, and not as the sequence in which to write it. I’ve provided some advice about the writing sequence in the descriptions below.
This comes first, but is generally written last, because it is a very brief summary of what you found and its significance. II. Introduction
The introduction describes very briefly what the study is about. It should be short and clear, and it should let the reader know quickly what this piece of research is about and why they might want to read it. Don’t get stuck here at the beginning. You will need to come back to this later anyway. III. Theory, Prior Research and Background
This is where you situate your study in its intellectual context, which may include the relevant theoretical work and any empirical studies that relate to yours. In standard sociological journal articles, this section generally...