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How to Read a Scholarly Article

During your academic career you will need to do research using scholarly journal articles, also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed articles. These articles are written by scholars or experts, for other scholars and experts in the same field.  For this reason, they are dense, full of unfamiliar words, and difficult to read.  The key to understanding the content is to know how to read this type of literature.

Be prepared:  allow time, print the article, look up unfamiliar words, and take notes.  Plan to read the article more than once.  Be patient; this is not easy reading. 

Scholarly journal articles follow a specific structure.

  • Title: The title is descriptive, stating what the paper is about.

  • Abstract: The abstract is usually but not always labeled abstract. It consists of a short, concise summary of the article, stating its purpose and its findings.  Read the abstract to determine if this article is going to be useful to you.

  • Introduction: Here the problem or research question is introduced.  The author will include a literature review which will tell you what is already written or known about the problem. 

  • Methods:  (sometimes called Methods and Materials):  How was the research conducted?  This section tells you what procedures were used to conduct the research.  Methods is the most technical and complex section of the article, making it difficult to read. Suggestion: read everything else first, and then concentrate on this section on your second reading of the article.

  • Results:  What were the findings from the study?  This section often includes graphs, charts & statistics in addition to text.

  • Discussion or Conclusion:  What do the results mean?  Here is where the results are explained in terms of their implications.  Suggestions for future research are discussed here as well.

  • References:  This section lists all the sources used by the authors when conducting their research. 

How to Read a Scholarly Article

From How to Read a Scholarly Journal Article [Video], by the Kishwaukee College Library, 2012, YouTube (https://youtu.be/EEVftUdfKtQ).