Unlike a novel, the best strategy for reading a scholarly article is not to start at the beginning and read to the end. Instead, it is better to jump around to build an understanding of the main arguments and then go back to fill in the details.
Step 1: Read the abstract, conclusion, and introduction
- Start with the abstract
- Summarizes the main points of the article
- Introduces to the vocabulary used in the article.
- Jump to the conclusion
- Most articles will have a separate heading marking the conclusions
- Clearest summarization of the author's argument.
- Read the Introduction
- The introduction provides details of why the author is writing this article and where they begin to make the arguments
Step 2: Skim for the overall structure
- Next, you want to skim through the article to see how the author structures their content.
- Does the writer preface each section with an overview?
- Does the article move from example to analysis?
- Where does the author discuss other people's findings?
- Once you know how the author structures their article, you will know what to focus in on when you read through the article in its entirety.
Step 3: Read for Content
- Know your purpose.
- If you professor assigns the paper
- Are you going to be quizzed on the article? - read for details.
- Will there be a class discussion? Read for the main argument
- If you are reading an article for research:
- What argument does this article support?
- Do you need to quote particular arguments or facts in your paper?
- Take notes
- Annotate with a specific key
- key ideas/major points
- unfamiliar words
- keywords and phrases
- important information
- connections to class materials or other articles.
- Break the text into sections and summarize the main points in your own words.
- Take breaks
- These articles are HARD. If you can't stay focused, walk away for a few minutes. Or even better, plan ahead and only read part of the article a night. Remember these are not stories, you won't lose anything if you stop and come back to the article later.