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Communication Research Strategies

Things to Consider When Reading a Scholarly Article

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UCL Institute of Education. (2011). Tuition and research supervision by experts. Retrieved from under the Creative Commons License.

Consider the following points when reading a scholarly article:

  1. Know your research question or argument. Though your question/argument may change or evolve as you delve deeper into the research process, you will want to have a solid idea of your research focus.
  2. You don't have to read the entire article in order. Start with the abstract which will give you a general summary of the article. If the abstract seems relevant then move to the conclusion or discussion section of the article to gain a better understanding of the article's main claims. At this point if the article does not seem relevant or useful then discard it. However, if the article does seem useful then spend as much time as necessary reading the article.
  3. Read critically. What is the author's argument? You will need to use your judgment when evaluating each source of information. Further research may be necessary if you find the author to be biased or you do not believe the validity of their argument.
  4. Read the reference section. Reading the references or works cited may lead you to other useful resources. You might also get a better understanding of the major players in the area you are researching.
  5. Take notes. How you do this is up to you. Make sure you keep your research question and argument in mind so you can be more efficient when taking notes.
    Created by Rachel Arteaga, CSU Chico:

Shortcuts to reading journal articles

When conducting your own research in the future, you will encounter dozens of possibilities in your search for sources that may be relevant to your research. Most often you will find more sources than you can possibly read thoroughly in the time you have to do your project. So you will not have time to read everything chronologically from start to finish. Here are some hints on how to sift through the multiple possibilities, discard articles that are less helpful, and recognize potentially important sources.
  • Read the abstract first: Titles don’t always give much information. The abstract should give you just enough information to let you know the basics of the article. From this you will know whether you should read on or look elsewhere for your project. Some journals print a list of keywords pertaining to the article as well. These are further clues about the article.
  • Read the introduction and discussion/conclusion next: These sections will give you the main argument of the article, which should be helpful in determining its relevance to you and your project. You’ll also get a glimpse of the findings of the research being reported.
  • Read about the methods next: If what you’ve read so far interests you, get a sense of how the research was done. Is it a qualitative or quantitative project? What data are the study based on?
  • Read the Analysis and results next: If you decide that you are committed to this article, you should read in more detail about this research.

Created by the Department of Sociology, SUNY Brockport:

Resources for Reading Scholarly Articles

Below are some excellent resources to help you read and utilize scholarly articles.

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