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SOC 3690 Critical Issues in Criminal Study

Library Search for Cross-Disciplinary Search

  • Use Library Search  on the Libraries home page to search newspapers, magazines, or journals to get a list of articles in publications from multiple disciplines.

Journal Article and Newspaper Databases

Try the following databases in the list below for articles in sociology, criminal justice, and related areas. For additional subject-specific databases visit the Subject Guides list:

How to Read a Scholarly Article


Journal and Author

  • Is the journal refereed/peer-reviewed? Use UlrichsWeb ( > Databases & Guides > U > UlrichsWeb) to find out whether the journal is refereed, how often it is published, who publishes it, etc. Then do a Google search to find the journal web site. Does it label itself peer-reviewed?
  • What are the author(s)’ credentials? Are author(s) affiliated with a university, research organization, think tank, or government organization? Are they from a corporation?


  • 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 Ö 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)