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Research Help: How to Read a Scholarly Article

A Librarian’s Cheat Sheet on How to Read a Scholarly Article

(Note: If your resource is not a formal research article published in a scholarly journal, this advice won’t work for you.)

This cheat sheet refers to the parts of a scholarly article. If you aren’t sure about what they are, check out this guide from North Carolina State University.

Step 1.  Read the abstract. Pro-tip: If the abstract doesn’t sound like it will work with your research, don’t read the article or include it in your research. Also, don’t cite from, quote, or copy from the abstract. Ever.

Step 2.  Set up your notes. Write out your citation in your notes. Take notes on everything you read and think about what you read from here on out.

Step 3.  Skip towards the end and read the conclusion or discussion section. Focus on identifying the main findings of the authors. Pro-tip: write these in your notes and label them something helpful like “Summary of Findings”.

Step 4. Go back to the beginning and read the introduction and literature review. Know that they may be separated or together.  Here, look to identify the main research question and the authors’ hypothesis. 

Step 5.  Next, read the methods and results section. Make notes on strengths and weaknesses in the study design.

Step 6. Read the discussion and conclusion section(s) again. This time read these sections as a conclusion to the research question and hypothesis outlined in the introduction. Note the strength of the findings and their interpretation.

Step 7. Browse the references to look for other relevant resources to consult.

Need more help with your research? Email or make an appointment with a librarian.

Find a Scholarly or Peer-reviewed Journal Article