How to Read a Scholarly Article

Script of video:

Scholarly journal articles often contain different sections, including an abstract, introduction, literature review, main body, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography and/or references. 

However, in order to save time and understand what the author is trying to say more quickly, it’s more efficient to hop around the article in a different order. 

Start with the abstract. An abstract is like a menu description that tells you what to expect from the article. 

Next, jump down to the end of the article and read the discussion and conclusion. These sections sum up the article. Reading the end of a journal article early won't spoil it for you;  it will help you decide whether you want to commit to the article and invest any more time in reading the whole thing. 

At this point, if the article seems like it might be relevant,  hop back to the beginning of the article and read the introduction. The introduction will reveal how the author is planning to approach the subject. 

By now, you should have a good feel for what the article is about, and you will find that the body of the article will include the finer details of the research. This section of the article may be organized by headings such as "methodology", "results", and "data".

The literature review section helps to position this new research into an existing context by revealing the other research that has been published on the topic.

At this point, if you still think that the article is relevant to your research, re-read the entire article a second time in chronological order.  Reading the article twice will ensure that you have a full understanding of the article and the author's message. 

While you're reading any article, ask yourself these questions:

What specific topic is the researcher studying?

What is already known about the this topic?

Do you agree with what the author is saying?

Does what the author says agree with other information you have found on this topic?

Finding answers to these questions will improve your comprehension of the article and help you to think critically about the topic.

Last, but not least, the bibliography or list of references will help you track down more relevant sources for your research.  

If you need more help with any of these strategies, visit one of our Research Help Desks.

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