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How to Read a Scholarly Article

Guide to reading academic, peer-reviewed articles effectively and efficiently.

In sum, we have explored the following concepts:

  • Academic writing is a genre, with predictable components common to most fields of study, with only slight variations in style among the disciplines.
  • Knowing what to expect in academic writing can help you read and understand more efficiently.
  • The IMRD model of scholarly articles presents the most common components of academic writing: introduction, methods, results, and discussion.
  • Academic articles and book are not isolated pieces of information, but represent one intersection in a network of knowledge.
  • The literature review should map out the network of previous scholarship that has informed and challenged the author(s), and should reveal a problem or gap in existing knowledge that the author(s) will attempt to resolve.

What Next?

The next time you need to read a scholarly book or article, keep these features of academic writing in mind. Look for:

  • Introduction & Literature Review -- Trace the network of previous scholarship; reveal a problem or gap in existing knowledge
  • Method -- How is the research question to be answered? What data* will be collected and analyzed?
  • Results -- How do the authors interpret the data? What do they mean?
  • Discussion or Conclusion -- How do the results of this study contribute to knowledge in the field? What questions remain for further study?

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*Remember that data can take many forms. They might be measurements from a laboratory experiment, observations of human interactions, responses from a survey, a creative work, or historical documents from an archive.

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