A scholarly paper can be difficult to read. Instead of reading straight through, try focusing on the different sections and asking specific questions at each point. View the video below for a quick overview of how to read a scholarly article.
Research papers generally follow a specific format with section headings. Here are the different parts of a scholarly article.
Scholarly articles are written by experts for other experts, which means sometimes they're hard to understand if you don't know a lot about a particular topic. In order make reading the scholarly articles easier, we recommend reading the sections out of order. The suggested order below should help you get more information out of the article without getting bogged down in some of the highly specialized elements.
1. Abstract: this section is generally written by the author(s) of the article, provides a concise summary of the whole article. Usually it highlights the focus, study results and conclusion(s) of the article.
Questions to consider:
2. Introduction: In this section, the authors introduce their topic, explain the purpose of the study, and present why it is important, unique or how it adds to existing knowledge in their field. Look for the author's hypothesis or thesis here.
Many scholarly articles include a summary of previous research or discussions published on this topic, called a "Literature Review". This section outlines what others have found and what questions still remain.
Questions to consider for the introduction:
3. Discussion: This section should tell you what the authors felt was significant about their results. The authors analyze their data and describe what they believe it means.
Questions for the discussion:
4. Conclusion: Here the authors offer their final thoughts and conclusions and may include: how the study addressed their hypothesis, how it contributes to the field, the strengths and weaknesses of the study, and recommendations for future research. Some papers combine the discussion and conclusion.
Questions for the conclusion:
5. Methodology: Find the details of how the study was performed in this section. There should be enough specifics so that you could repeat the study if you wanted.
If what you've read addresses your research question, this should be your next section. Questions to consider:
6. Results and Analysis: The results section includes the findings from the study. Look for the data and statistical results in the form of tables, charts, and graphs. Some papers include an analysis here. The analysis section should tell you what the authors felt was significant about their results. The authors analyze their data and describe what they believe it means.
Now read the details of this research. What did the researchers learn? If graphs and statistics are confusing, focus on the explanations around them. Questions to consider:
7. Review the References (anytime): These give credit to other scientists and researchers and show you the basis the authors used to develop their research. The list of references, or works cited, should include all of the materials the authors used in the article. The references list can be a good way to identify additional sources of information on the topic. Questions to ask:
When you read these scholarly articles, remember that you will be writing based on what you read.
Try different ways, but use the one that fits you best. Below are some suggestions:
As you read jot down questions that come to mind. These may be answered later on in the article or you may have found something that the authors did not consider. Here are a few questions that might be helpful:
Source Credit: Text content reused with permission from University of Southern California Library; originally from Reading Scholarly Articles.