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How to Read a Scholarly Article

A guide to help students and new researchers to understanding the parts of a scholarly article.

Parts of a Research Article

Most scholarly research articles follow a specific format with the following sections. These sections will always be in this order in a research article:

  • Abstract – A quick summary of the entire article.
  • Introduction – The purpose/hypothesis of the study is stated, and previous research relating to the current experiment is reviewed. (“What We Already Know, and What We Want to Find Out”)
  • Methodology – A very precise accounting how the study was carried out - who were the subjects, under what conditions were they tested, etc. (“What We Did”)
  • Results – The data from the study. Often presented with dense mathematical formulas, and with charts, graphs, or other visual representations. (“Our Numbers”)
  • Discussion – A narrative review of the data and whether it proved or disproved the original thesis. (“What We Found Out and Why We Think It’s Important”)
  • Conclusion – Usually re-states the results in more straightforward language and discusses future directions for research. (“What We Still Don’t Know”)
  • Bibliography – The other research the authors/researchers consulted to understand the issue and design their study.

When it Comes to Research, More is Better

When people receive a serious medical diagnosis, they often want a second opinion. When we are researching, finding several sources is like that second opinion - it lets us confirm what we originally thought, or it brings up a dissenting opinion that is important to take into consideration.

A good rule of thumb is that you should review twice as many sources as you use. That means if your professor is requiring 4 sources for a paper or project, you should be closely reviewing 8-10 sources to determine which ones are the most relevant to your topic.

Serious researchers must do a thorough review of the current state of thinking on a topic. Luckily for us, they leave a clear list of the sources they consulted in their bibliography, which means we can find other relevant articles far more easily. See the "Finding Out More" box on the Reading for Meaning page of this guide for how to find these sources.

Just get all of the sources for your research paper from a Google search. Said no professor ever.

 

 


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