Reading Scholarly Articles

Learning Objectives

  • Explain how to effectively read scholarly articles

Reading Scholarly Articles

For many college assignments, you will be asked to find and read scholarly articles to support arguments in your own writing. Scholarly articles are those written by professionals in their fields of study, intended for other professionals in that field, and published in a venue that professionals in the field use. Professional articles are also often peer-reviewed articles, meaning that other scholars have reviewed the article before publication.

Journal articles generally share these common characteristics:

  • Published quarterly or semi-annually in print journals or online
  • Follow strict guidelines for organization, writing, and citations
  • Include information organized into sections with headings
  • Are long and in-depth; 10-20 pages is normal.
  • May include graphs or tables but few, if any, images or advertisements.
  • Include specialized or field-specific language.
  • Present information objectively, without bias.
  • Include reference lists and in-text citations.

Scholarly journal articles are different than conventional articles from newspapers, magazines, and websites. They often can be very challenging to read.

Journal articles follow different rules based on the subject or discipline they address. Those written for the humanities use MLA and CMS style and are structured like an essay, while other journal articles follow APA guidelines for organization, writing, and citation.

MLA and CMS

Journal articles written in MLA (Modern Language Association) or CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) are generally organized like an essay, with or without headings, and have the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography or Works Cited
  • Appendices (if necessary)

These articles use MLA or CMS citation style for layout, citation, and documentation. They make and support arguments, they pay close attention to good prose and writing style, and they include cited references. These types of articles are used in English, History, Modern Languages, and Philosophy studies.

APA Style

APA Style is more commonly used in the sciences and research articles written in the fields of Education, Medicine, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences. They focus less on prose and writing style, and more on using precise language and specialized terminology. They present studies, propose and test hypotheses, cite relevant research, and describe the results of an experiment. They are generally organized as follows:

  • Abstract: Summarize the article
  • Key Words
  • Introduction
    • Describe the topic
    • Identify the problem
    • Provide a literature review
    • Define the theoretical approach
    • State the hypothesis
  • Method
    • Describe the model used
    • Describe what was done
  • Results
    • Share data (often with tables and
      figures)
    • Describe results
  • Discussion (and/or Conclusion)
    • Interpret the results
    • Draw conclusions
    • Identify limitations
    • Share ideas for future areas of study
  • References
  • Appendices (if necessary)
  • Table and/or figures (if necessary, may also be included in the body of the article)

Watch It

This video reviews each of the components of scholarly journal articles and will walk you through a few examples.

You can view the transcript for “Annotating a Journal Article” here (opens in new window).

Try It

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