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Reading Scholarly Articles

Don't let the often dense, academic language of scholarly journal articles intimidate you! Follow these tips to get the information you need quickly and easily.

  • Skim strategically. Don't feel like you have to read every article you come across beginning to end, but similarly, don't simply dismiss an article based on the title. 
  • Read the abstract in full.
  • When reading and skimming, keep these questions in mind:
    • What is the article saying?
    • How is it saying this? How is the main argument being defended?
    • How does this compare to what others are saying? Is this a majority or minority view? What competing ideas are there to consider?
    • What came before it in the scholarly literature? What comes after it in the scholarly literature?
  • Write a brief summary, in your own words, to help you later. Note if there are certain facts or quotations you plan to use in your paper.
  • Look at the Literature Review section. This is a common feature of many articles that summarizes other major works on the topic and can provide very helpful resources for further exploration.

Assessing Journal Prestige

Not every scholarly journal has the same quality standards, and some are considered a step above others. There are thousands of scholarly journals out there, so how do you know if you're choosing to read a good one?

  • Is it indexed? If you found it in one of our library databases, this is a good sign!
  • What's its history? If it's new, what is the journal's mission? Is it being supported by a trustworthy organization, such as a publisher, university, or scholarly society?
  • Is it peer reviewed? What is the peer review standard compared to other journals in the field?
  • Talk to your professors or a librarian! They can help you assess the journals you're finding and point you to better alternatives, if needed.