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How to Read a Scholarly Article

Tips for Saving Time and Focusing Effort Effectively

Finding scholarly articles, checking their contents to ensure they are useful for you, and then processing the contents so you can writing or speak about what you are finding is time consuming. Here is some advice to help with this- 

  • Keep your topic in mind and stay focused. If an article is interesting but off-topic, just email it to yourself for later- don't get sidetracked. 
  • Note keywords to improve future searches.
  • Article selection requires some quick evaluation. Start with the title, if that seems on topic proceed to the abstract, if the abstract is off-topic, swipe left and move on. Make sure their area of research overlaps substantially with your topic. 
  • Look up important words that you don't understand.
  • Check the list of articles cited at the end of the paper, note authors and titles that seem like good resources for your topic. 
  • Think critically about what you read!

The Sections of a Paper Written in Scientific Journal Style and Format (click on hotlinks for more information)

Most journal-style scientific papers are subdivided into the following sections: Title, Authors and Affiliation, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Acknowledgments, and Literature Cited, which parallel the experimental process. This is the system we will use. This website describes the style, content, and format associated with each section.

The sections appear in a journal style paper in the following prescribed order:

Experimental Process                                                                       

Section of Paper

What did I do in a nutshell?  


What is the problem?                                                                                                        


How did I solve the problem?                                                                    

Materials and Methods

What did I find out?                                                                                    


What does it mean?                                                                                    


Who helped me out?                                                                                   

Acknowledgments (optional)

Whose work did I refer to?                                                                          

Literature Cited

Extra information                                                                                        

Appendices (optional)



Adapted from

Bates College.  Department of Biology.  (2009).  How to write a paper in scientific journal style and format.