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UGS 303: Road Movies and Quixotic Journeys / Reed

Reading scholarly articles (social sciences, STEM)

How to Read Scholarly Articles

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. 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.

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