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Tutorial: How to write a literature review

How to Read a Scholarly Article


  • Read these first:
    1. Abstract
    2. Introduction
    3. Discussion/Conclusions
  • Based on that first skim, answer these two questions:
    1. What is the article about?
    2. What point are the authors trying to make? What is their argument?
Take Notes
  • After skimming, thoroughly read the entire article.
  • In the margin, summarize each paragraph using only a couple of words or a short phrase.
  • Question what you read and think critically. Ask yourself, does this seem right? Who or what did the researchers study? How did they analyze it? Did they learn anything meaningful? Sometimes your answers to your questions will be positive, yet other times you will come across articles that seem very weak. Make a note of that.
  • Number three or four of the most important points in the article; this will help you find those main points later and will help you organize your own thoughts.
  • Circle jargon, unusual phrases, technical terms, etc.  You can look for definitions/examples or you can use them as keywords to search for more articles later.
  • Highlight only quotations that you just cannot word better (or paraphrase) yourself. These may be the cited quotations you use in your own paper. Be very selective about what you highlight.
  • Put a check mark next to references (in the bibliography, works cited, or reference section) that relate to your project; you can look those up later for additional sources.
  • At the top of each article, write down two points: (1) What is useful or important about this article?  (2) What are the article’s biases, limitations, weaknesses, or omissions?

(Maria Perez-Stable, September 2018; courtesy of Mary O’Kelly, WMU Libraries)

Video: How to read scholarly materials

Tutorial: How to read scholarly materials

Quiz: How to read a scholarly article