Because they are written by and for scholars, peer-reviewed articles are often challenging to read.
Try approaching the parts of the article 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.
- Conclusion: The author's interpretation of the study's results tells you more about whether this article will be helpful. You may need to move on to another article or adjust your topic in response to what you're learning about the existing research.
- Skim the body of the article, paying attention to the headings and figures:
- Introduction: Understand why the study was conducted.
- Literature review: Learn how the study fits into the scholarly conversation about the topic and look out for other relevant sources for your project.
- Methods (or Design): Find out how the researchers collected and analyzed their data.
- Results (and/or Discussion): Review the information that the study produced.
If you plan to discuss a source in detail, read the complete article from beginning to end.
Read slowly and look up unfamiliar words. Take notes that summarize your understanding of each section. While you read, try to determine:
- What are the main and sub-questions the study was intended to answer?
- How credible are the study and its results? Be able to explain your answer.
- How does the article fit within your research? Does it confirm, challenge, or complicate your own ideas?