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Reading a Scholarly Article

Research Help

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540-828-5642
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For assistance with primary sources related to:

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Stephanie Gardner

The Parts of a Research Article

  • Abstract: a brief summary that gives you the highlights of the article and the author's findings
  • Introduction: The author introduces their research and the main question to be answered in the course of the study
    • Literature Review: the author situates their research in the context of the existing research within the field
  • Body: the meaty sections of a scholarly article where authors provide details and statistics about their study
    • Methodology: describes how the research was performed, including test subjects, control factors, etc.
    • Results/Data: the numbers/outcome, often presented with graphs and charts
  • Discussion: the author reviews what they discovered during their research and whether the original thesis was proved or disproved
  • Conclusion: a restatement of the findings and results, and a discussion of what still needs to be researched
  • References: previous research that the author consulted to formulate their study design and research questions

Getting Started with a Research Article

Gathering information from a scholarly article is different from reading a popular article. Most of the time you do not need to read a scholarly article from start to finish in order to understand what it's about.

On your first reading of the article, you just need to be concerned with whether the article contains information useful for your research. Make sure you take the time to establish your research question before reading scholarly articles so that you will have an easier time determining the relevance of an article to your research.


To do this, you should focus on the following and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Abstract
    • What is this article about? What is the hypothesis or thesis?
    • Is this article relevant to my research question?
  • Introduction/Literature Review
    • What is already known about this topic and what is left to discover?
    • How is this research unique?
    • Will this help me to better understand my research question?
  • Discussion/Conclusion
    • What does this study mean and what have the researchers discovered in regard to their hypothesis/thesis?
    • What do these conclusions mean for your research question?

You will want to focus on the Methods or Results section in later readings. You should read through an article more than once before before using it in your own research.

Rereading the Scholarly Article

Reading through an article once allows you to understand the main ideas of the article. The second or third readings of the article should be in more detail, and are typically from start to finish. They will allow you to pull more details from the article and identify specific elements you'll use later to support your own paper or project. During these readings you should concentrate on the following questions:

  • What is the author's main argument? Is it relevant to my research question?
  • Does the author agree or disagree with the other research I have found?
  • What evidence does he/she provide? Is the argument well supported?
  • Do the author's conclusions flow logically from his/her argument and evidence?