Peer-reviewed articles are generally written above your reading level. Take your time; don't expect to understand the article immediately. Try reading in this order:
- Abstract: Read it carefully. If you can't understand the abstract at all, the article might not be relevant to your topic.
- Introduction: Background information about why the study was conducted.
- Skim the body of the article: This is the methods, discussion, results, etc. Pay attention to the headings, sections, and figures.
- Conclusion: The author's interpretations of the study's results. By now you should know whether this article will be helpful, or whether you need to move on to another article or adjust your topic.
- Literature review: The scholarly conversation about the topic. This might contain additional sources for your project. It's okay to skip this section until you decide whether or not to use the article in your research.
- Second Reading: read the complete article from beginning to end. Read slowly and look up words you don't recognize. Take notes.
While you read, try to determine:
- The big question and smaller detailed questions the author is trying to answer.
- Whether you think the author's study and results are credible.
- How the article fits within your research. Does it strengthen or challenge your hypothesis?