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FYSP 068 - Minds, Machines, and God: Reading Scholarly Articles

What are Scholarly Articles?

Scholarly articles are published in journals intended for audiences in specific academic disciplines.

Many, but not all, scholarly journals are peer-reviewed.

Prior to publication, peer-reviewed articles are submitted to experts in the field who offer feedback to the author.  Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).

Not all content in a scholarly journal is peer-reviewed.  Their can be editorial essays and often book reviews.

Basic Types of Scholarly Articles

Research:  An article that reports on original research, such as an experiment, analysis of data, a creative work, or historical event. 

Theoretical:  An article that contributes to the theoretical foundations of a field, providing explanations for phenomena or frameworks to guide the analysis of evidence.

Review:  An article that summarizes the results of many original articles investigating similar topics. Might include meta-analysis to statistically compare data from multiple studies

Parts of Scholarly Articles - not all articles will have all of these parts!


Brief summary of the article.
Introduction States the topic, purpose, and argument of the article.
Methods Mentions steps taken to support argument of the article.
Results/Findings Shares results of the research.
Discussion Analyzes and talks about the findings of the research.
Conclusion Synthesizes the article's findings and argument.
References List of cited sources.


How to Read a Scholarly Article

1. Read the abstract

An abstract is a summary of the article, and will give you an idea of what the article is about and how it will be written. If there are lots of complicated subject-specific words in the abstract, the article will be just as hard to read.

2. Read the conclusion

This is where the author will repeat all of their ideas and their findings. Some authors even use this section to compare their study to others. By reading this, you will notice a few things you missed, and will get another overview of the content.

3. Read the first paragraph or the introduction

This is usually where the author will lay out their plan for the article and describe the steps they will take to talk about their topic. By reading this, you will know what parts of the article will be most relevant to your topic!

4. Read the first sentence of every paragraph

These are called topic sentences, and will usually introduce the idea for the paragraph that follows. By reading this, you can make sure that the paragraph has information relevant to your topic before you read the entire thing. 

5. The rest of the article

Now that you have gathered the idea of the article through the abstract, conclusion, introduction, and topic sentences, you can read the rest of the article!

To review: Abstract → Conclusion → Introduction → Topic Sentences → Entire Article

Created by the UIUC Undergraduate Library