This page was created to help you:
This page will focus on reading scholarly articles — published reports on original research in the social sciences, humanities, and STEM fields. Reading and understanding this type of article can be challenging. This guide will help you develop these skills, which can be learned and improved upon with practice.
We will go over:
Note: Not all articles contain all components.
|Title||Offers clues to article’s main topic.|
Describes who is responsible for this work. May be one person, a group, or an institution. Make note of authors and institutions you see repeatedly during your search process.
|Abstract||Summarizes article contents and findings; may include methodology.|
Describe the content in quick words or phrases. Help you place the work in context with other literature. Good for quick reference!
|Introduction||Summarizes the article’s main idea, thesis, or research question. Should answer the question, "Why this?" Includes background knowledge on the topic and provides information about research motivations, impact, or purpose.|
Places the research in context with prior work. Analyzes important contributions that the author(s) believe are relevant and that the article builds upon to create new knowledge. Sometimes includes a theoretical framework. A good place to look to find additional sources for your research!
|Methods (or Methodology)||
An explanation of how and why the authors approached the examination of their question and the collection of data. May include information about the limitations of their chosen methodology.
An examination of meaning and implications of the research for existing and future exploration.
|Figures||Graphical representation of findings and other relevant information. Includes charts, graphs, maps, images, tables, etc. Look at figures during your initial scan to determine relevancy and quality.|
A synthesis of the findings and importance of the research.
Reading a scholarly article isn’t like reading a novel, website, or newspaper article. It’s likely you won’t read and absorb it from beginning to end, all at once.
Instead, think of scholarly reading as inquiry, i.e., asking a series of questions as you do your research or read for class. Your reading should be guided by your class topic or your own research question or thesis.
For example, as you read, you might ask yourself:
Read with purpose.
Create your own informal system of organization. It doesn’t have to be complicated — start basic, and be sure it works for you.
Highlight words, terms, phrases, acronyms, etc. that are unfamiliar to you. You can highlight on the text or make a list in a notetaking program.
You may scan an article and discover that it isn’t what you thought it was about. Before you close the tab or delete that PDF, consider scanning the article one more time, specifically to look for citations that might be more on-target for your topic.
You don’t need to look at every citation in the bibliography — you can look to the literature review to identify the core references that relate to your topic. Literature reviews are typically organized by subtopic within a research question or thesis. Find the paragraph or two that are closely aligned with your topic, make note of the author names, then locate those citations in the bibliography or footnote.