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Evaluating Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Sources: Tips for reading scholarly articles

Identify the Type of Article

Types of Scholarly Articles


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


An article summarizing the results of many original articles investigating similar topics. May use analytic techniques such as meta-analysis to statistically compare data from multiple studies.

Tip #1 - Many scholarly journals, especially in the Humanities, also publish book reviews of scholarly books. These are not the same as review articles!


An article intended to contribute to the theoretical foundations of a field, providing explanations for phenomena and frameworks that can be used to guide the analysis of evidence.

Decide if you are Scanning, Skimming, or Doing a Close Read

  • Scanning is reading rapidly to find facts or information to answer specific questions.  Scanning often comes before skimming. For example, scanning can be used to determine if a resource has the information you are looking for. Once the resource is scanned, it can then be skimmed for more detail.
  • Skimming is reading rapidly to get a general overview of the material. Reading the abstract, introduction, conclusion, and the topic sentences of key paragraphs is often a good strategy for quickly engaging with a scholarly article. Follow the Order of Reading suggested below, working through only as many steps as are needed to understand: 
    • The thesis or argument
    • The key evidence used to support the thesis
    • The theoretical framework or research methods used
  • Close Reading involves reading a text carefully and engaging deeply with the nuances of its arguments and evidence. Follow the entire Order of Reading suggested below. Consider repeating steps as you move through the text and your understanding of it evolves. As you read: 
    • Highlight key passages, phrases, and turning points. 
    • Write marginal notes in the text that correspond to your highlights.  These notes can be questions, comments, or insights that you had as you read.
    • Try some freewriting and attempt to answer the question(s) you asked about the reading in step 2. 
    • Step back and reflect. Then continue to refine your process until you are satisfied that you can make a statement about the text's meaning.

Order of Reading

How To Read A Scholarly Article

Read The Abstract
The abstract will give you a general understanding of the article. Also, pay attention to the authors and their titles.

Read The Conclusion

The conclusion will summarize the author's findings including ways of improving the research.

Read The Introduction

The introduction will set up the layout of the article and the main argument of the article.

Tip #1: Highlight important ideas.

Read The First And Last Sentence Of Each Paragraph

The first and last sentence of each paragraph will give you a brief understanding of the discussion. 

Tip #2: Take notes on the margins.

Read The Rest Of The Article

After getting a general idea of the article, read the entire article to get a full picture of the author's argument.

Tip #3: Repeat steps one and two.