Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

UGS 303: Contested Istanbul / Okur

Reading scholarly articles

Yes, it is as difficult as you feel it is.

Reading scholarly articles is difficult because these are texts written by experts in a narrow field for experts in that same field.

One day you will be an expert in your particular field of study.

You will be:

  • Familiar with conversations that experts in a topic area are having.
  • Able to recognize and evaluate research methodologies commonly used in your field.
  • Able to evaluate the use of and relevance of evidence presented in an article to analyze as evidence in your own research.
  • Familiar with the jargon and the common accepted knowledge in a field.

It will remain difficult to master reading these articles outside of your discipline or field of study, but I have some advice.

How to Read Scholarly Articles

Scholarly Articles can be long and dense, but most scholarly articles have a structure. Once you understand the structure of the texts, they become easier to read and understand.

Components Key Points
  • Short summary of the article includes:
    • the research question being addressed
    • why it is worthwhile to conduct this study
    • how the study was conducted
    • the main findings of the study
  • Discusses main research contributions and knowledge on the topic
  • Positions the author's approach to the topic and identifies their unique contributions ("they say this, I say this")
Methods/ Methodology
  • Identifies approach / instrument used to conduct a study
  • Identifies how the author gathered the data analyzed in the study
  • May discuss limitations of the study
  • Analyzes the data collected or the results of the experiment
  • Includes tables, charts, etc. for data visualization
  • Restates the problem addressed in the paper
  • Summarizes key takeaways from the research
  • Discusses the significance and implications of the research
  • Based upon these findings, suggests new approaches for studying the problem
  • List of research cited in paper

Not all research papers are organized in such a manner, but all research papers provide these components whether they are labeled thus or not.

Breaking down a scholarly article

At about the 7 min mark, the video talks about a strategy for skimming.

Elements of a historical research article

In many disciplines, the sections of an article are well-labeled. This is not always the case in the humanities, but the structure can be superimposed upon what you are reading.

An abstract is a summary of an article. It includes the author's argument and an explanation of the evidence they used. In this case, the author analyzed contributions made by Muslim women to Bosnian literary journals before World War I.

text of an abstract with previously stated information highlighte din yellow

The introduction of an article includes an overview of the scholarly conversation pre-existing the present author's contribution. The author is explaining how they are building off of previous research in the field and in which direction they believe they are headed with their findings. It is the 'they say this, I say this' part of the article. See below that I have highlighted what the author states previous researchers have studied (Muslim women in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman spaces) and where the author has seen a gap in the research that they seek to fill (Muslim women in the Yugoslav space). The superscript footnotes indicate citations to that research; an introduction will include a high number of citations to previous studies.

text with elements previously state highlighted in yellow (footnotes are highlighted in orange)

The body of the article includes analysis of texts and other data the author uses to back up their claims. You will see mostly quotations from the primary sources that the author analyzes and contextualizes with other primary sources and interpretations other scholars have previously made.

The last part of the article is the conclusion. This is where the article summarizes what they believe they have proved in their analysis. This will be more expansive than the summary in the abstract and it will include thoughts for further research (where the scholarship in the topic should explore next).

highlights the author's conclusions in yellow

and further on in the section, the author makes a conjecture that merits further study (that writing in these journals was the first step for Muslim women in Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in public life more broadly).

highlighted in yellow is the text previously mentioned

If you are interested in reading this entire article, click here.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.