Before you write about an article, you need to understand it. However, do not plan to read a scholarly or scientific journal article the same way you would a book or a magazine article. This page focuses on the elements of the scholarly article and offers recommended steps to reading it. For information on writing your paper, quoting from what your read and avoiding plagiarism, visit the links below.
Also be aware some papers have been retracted. Visit:
Research papers generally follow a specific format. Here are the different parts of the scholarly article.
The abstract, generally written by the author(s) of the article, provides a concise summary of the whole article. Usually it highlights the focus, study results and conclusion(s) of the article.
In this section, the authors introduce their topic, explain the purpose of the study, and present why it is important, unique or how it adds to existing knowledge in their field. Look for the author's hypothesis or thesis here.
Introduction - Literature Review (Who else)
Many scholarly articles include a summary of previous research or discussions published on this topic, called a "Literature Review". This section outlines what others have found and what questions still remain.
Methodology / Materials and Methods (How)
Find the details of how the study was performed in this section. There should be enough specifics so that you could repeat the study if you wanted.
Results (What happened)
This section includes the findings from the study. Look for the data and statistical results in the form of tables, charts, and graphs. Some papers include an analysis here.
Discussion / Analysis (What it means)
This section should tell you what the authors felt was significant about their results. The authors analyze their data and describe what they believe it means.
Conclusion (What was learned)
Here the authors offer their final thoughts and conclusions and may include: how the study addressed their hypothesis, how it contributes to the field, the strengths and weaknesses of the study, and recommendations for future research. Some papers combine the discussion and conclusion.
A scholarly paper can be difficult to read. Instead of reading straight through, try focusing on the different sections and asking specific questions at each point.
What is your research question?
When you select an article to read for a project or class, focus on your topic. Look for information in the article that is relevant to your research question.
Read the abstract first as it covers basics of the article. Questions to consider:
Second: Read the introduction and discussion/conclusion. These sections offer the main argument and hypothesis of the article. Questions to consider for the introduction:
Questions for the discussion and conclusion:
Next: Read about the Methods/Methodology. If what you've read addresses your research question, this should be your next section. Questions to consider:
Finally: Read the Results and Analysis. Now read the details of this research. What did the researchers learn? If graphs and statistics are confusing, focus on the explanations around them. Questions to consider:
Review the References (anytime): These give credit to other scientists and researchers and show you the basis the authors used to develop their research. The list of references, or works cited, should include all of the materials the authors used in the article. The references list can be a good way to identify additional sources of information on the topic. Questions to ask:
When you read these scholarly articles, remember that you will be writing based on what you read.
While you are Reading:
Try different ways, but use the one that fits you best. Below are some suggestions:
Reflect on what you have read - draw your own conclusions. As you read jot down questions that come to mind. These may be answered later on in the article or you may have found something that the authors did not consider. Here are a few questions that might be helpful: