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The Research Process: Reading a Scholarly Article

This guide is created to help students through the steps of writing a research paper or project.

Anatomy of an Article


It helps to be familiar with the different parts of scholarly sources. Generally articles in the social sciences have a similar structure with section headings, tables or other graphic illustrations with statistical information. 

Here are the typical sections:

  • The Abstract: a summary of the article, it should address the purpose, method, and results that will be found in the article.
  • Introduction (or Background): describes the purpose of the article.
  • Literature Review: a review of other articles on the topic.
  • Methodology (or Methods): how the study was conducted and the data collected. For example, is the methodology done with a survey, case study, experiment, or observation.
  • Results (or Findings): presents the outcomes of the research.
  • Discussion: analyzes the results and how they relate to the topic. The discussion should evaluate whether the results answered the author's original questions. 
  • Conclusion: reiterates points made throughout the article, including potential for further research. 
  • References: works cited throughout the article by the author.    

 

Reading the Article


When researching a topic you will likely find more sources than you could read in the time available for your project. Scholarly articles can be complicated to read, so it is important to evaluate the relevance of articles before you begin to read them from start to finish. 

Use these tips to help you get through the process quickly:

  • Feel free to skim the article at first. 
  • Use an encyclopedia or a dictionary to help you with unfamiliar terminology. A recommended source is Credo Reference 
  • Read the abstract.
  • There are 2 sections that are particularly important in understanding the article's topic. 
    • the introduction  
    • the conclusion 
  • Check the methodology section, consider the type of research done and the data generated. Are they relevant to your assignment?
  • If you have found that the article is useful for your research, read it again more closely. 

Here's a 5 minute video by a librarian from Kishwaukee College Library. He points out how to save time when reading a scholarly article. 
 

Lockman, Tim. (2012). How to Read a Scholarly Journal Article. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEVftUdfKtQ