Much of the information contained on this page comes from a Research Guide entitled, "How to Read an Article in a Scholarly Journal" from Cayuga Community College Library.
The information on this page covers the following topics:
In order to read scholarly materials accurately, you first need to be able to identify them. The most common attributes of scholarly materials are:
Aesthetics: As opposed to popular sources, scholarly materials aren't as flashy. You'll see fewer images and decorative elements. Every part of a scholarly source has a purpose.
Audience: Scholarly articles are written for scholars and experts in a specific research field and can include a wide variety of disciplines, including the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and other subjects.
Authority: Authors of published scholarly materials are experts in their fields, have credentials and affiliations to prove their authority, and can pass the peer-review process.
Jargon: Special terminology and language specific to a particular field of study is called jargon.
Peer Review: In scholarly materials, peer review is the evaluation of sources (usually articles) submitted for publication by researchers in the same discipline.
Use this chart to help distinguish among types of periodicals (publications that are issued on a regular (or periodic) interval and typically address a very specific aspect of a larger topic):
|Magazines and Newspapers||Scholarly Journals||Trade Journals|
|Authors||Reporters, journalists||Researchers & scholars in the field||Professionals in the field|
|Purpose||Entertain, persuade, inform||Publish research, educate, & communicate||Share information in the field|
|Audience||General public||Researchers, experts, & students in the field||Professionals & students in the field|
Writing Style & Vocabulary
|Simple, easy-to-read, writing & vocabulary||
Sophisticated, formal writing
Technical, discipline-specific vocabulary
Readable by general population
Vocabulary specific to profession
|Sources||Not cited||Cited with footnotes or bibliography||Generally not cited as scholarly journals are, but references may be given|
|Advertising||Extensive||Announcements for conferences, publications in the field||Specific to products & services in the profession|
|Graphics||Usually photographs accompany articles||Charts, tables, & statistical data to support articles||Photographs, charts, data|
|Publishers||Commercial, for-profit||Professional society, university, or non-profit organization||Professional or trade organization, non-profit organization|
|Is it Refereed or Peer-reviewed?||No||Yes, articles must meet rigorous standards & be reviewed by a panel of experts before being accepted for publication||Not a peer-review process, but articles are checked for accuracy before publication|
New York Times
Reading Research Quarterly
Journal of Marriage and the Family
New England Journal of Medicine
Law and Order
Phi Delta Kappan
Here is a citation for a journal article from a library database:
Here is the first page of that article as it appears in the journal:
Typically, the names of the academic or research institutions the authors are affiliated with will be stated on the first page of the journal article, either near the author's names, or lower on the page.
Abstracts are often written by the author or authors of the article. The abstract provides a concise summary of the research, including its purpose, significant results, and implications of the results. Reading the abstract can be a good way to determine whether the article is suitable for your needs. The abstract appears on the first page of the journal article, and may or may not be labeled. As a general rule, you only will find abstracts on papers of five or more pages in length.
The first few paragraphs of a journal article serve to introduce the topic, to provide the author's hypothesis or thesis, and to indicate why the research was done. A thesis or hypothesis is not always clearly labled; you may need to read through the introductory paragraphs to determine what the authors are proposing.
A literature review describes previous research or discussion that has been published on the topic. This review of the literature can provide a good overview of the topic and will outline what other researchers have found. The passage below shows references to the work of other researchers throughout the text, with their names and the year their research was published in parenthetical citations.
This section of the article describes the procedures, or methods, that were used to carry out the research study. The methodology the authors follow will vary according to the discipline, or field of study, the research relates to. Types of methodology include case studies, scientific experiments, field studies, focus groups, and surveys.
This section gives all of the data that was collected as a result of the research. Typically, results are reported in statistical terms, often in the form of tables, charts, and graphs.
This section gives discussion, conclusions, or implications, of the research. Here, the authors summarize what the results of the research might mean to the field, how the research addresses the original hypothesis, weaknesses of the study, and recommendations for future research about the topic.
The list of references, or works cited, provides publication information for all of the materials the authors used in the article. The references list can be a good way to identify additional sources of information on the topic.