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Reading Comprehension

Understanding what you read is the key to thinking critically, communicating effectively, and doing well in your classes. Whether you're diving into textbooks, joining class discussions, researching, or prepping for your future career, solid reading skills set you up for success. It's not just a college thing; it's a skill you'll use for life, helping you stay sharp and aware of what's happening in the world.

How to Read an Academic Article

Sections of an Academic Article

Most academic journal articles include the following sections:

  • Abstract  (An executive summary of the study)
  • Introduction (Definition of the research question to be studied)
  • Literature Review (A summary of past research noting where gaps exist)
  • Methods (The research design including variables, sample size, measurements)
  • Data (Information gathered through the study often displayed in tables and charts)
  • Results (Conclusions reached at the end of the study) Conclusion (Discussion of whether the study proved the thesis; may suggest opportunities for further research) Bibliography (A list of works cited in the journal article)

TIP: To begin selecting articles for your research, read the highlighted sections to determine whether the academic journal article includes information relevant to your research topic.

Step 1: Skim the Article

When sorting through multiple articles discovered in the research process, skimming through these sections of the article will help you determine whether the article will be useful in your research.

  1. Article title  and subject headings assigned to the article
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Conclusion

If the article fits your information needs, go back and read the article thoroughly. TIP: Create a folder on your computer to save copies of articles you plan to use, and save your references.

Step 2: Determine Your Purpose

Think about how you will evaluate the academic articles you find and how you will determine whether to include them in your research project.  Ask yourself the following questions to focus your search in the academic literature: ‚Äč

  • Are you looking for an overview of a topic or an explanation of a specific concept, idea, or position?
  • Are you exploring gaps in the research to identify a new area for academic study?
  • Are you looking for research that supports or disagrees with your thesis or research question?
  • Are you looking for examples of a research design and/or research methods you are considering for your own research project?

Step 3: Read Critically

Before reading the article, ask yourself the following:

  • What is my research question? What position am I trying to support?
  • What do I already know about this topic?  What do I need to learn?
  • How will I evaluate the article?  Author's reputation? Research design? Treatment of topic? 
  • What are my biases about the topic?

As you read the article make note of the following:

  • Who is the intended audience for this article?
  • What is the author's purpose in writing this article?
  • What is the main point?
  • How was the main point proven or supported?  
  • Were scientific methods used in conducting the research? Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?
  • How does this article compare or connect with other articles on the topic?
  • Does the author recommend areas for further study?
  • How does this article help to answer your research question?

Tools to Improve Your Skills

Reading Comprehension FAQs