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Reading Scholarly Articles

Best Practice for Reading Academic Articles

Read in 3 passes

Pass 1

Get a sense of the framework and major conclusions; underline unfamiliar words, methods, and concepts; evaluate the quality of the study

  • Skim through
    • Abstract
    • Intro
    • Section headings
    • Tables, diagrams, & captions
    • Conclusion
  • Ask
    • What is the thesis of the paper?
    • What are the main arguments?
    • Why is this paper important?
    • How does it contribute to the field?
    • What questions do I still have about the study or its findings?
  • Summarize – 1-2 sentences what the paper is about

Pass 2

Scan the full text of the article, getting a better sense of the research conducted

  • Pay closer attention to beginning and ending of each section
  • Pay attention to highlighted sections from first pass and look up elements you’re not familiar with
  • Answer all questions you had about the paper

Pass 3

Reflect on and analyze the paper (this analysis can often be used in your own paper)

  • Take another look at
    • Arguments
    • Evidence
    • Conclusions
    • Methodology
  • Take notes in your own words
  • Answer
    • Did the authors do what they set out to do?
    • Are their methods sound?
    • Are their arguments logical?
    • What assumptions did they make?

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