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What are some strategies for reading academic literature?

Last updated on May 27, 2021    ebooks databases research

 

Part of determining a source's relevance also includes evaluating its suitability for use in academic research. Not all sources are created equal. Take note of:

  • Publication date
  • Publisher (book) or Journal (article)
  • Author(s) credentials and experience
  • Tone
  • Signs of Bias
  • Intended audience 

Once you find a source that appears both relevant to your topic and appropriate for academic research, use the following tips for reading peer-reviewed articles and academic books to help you use your time efficiently.

Tips for Reading Academic/Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • Know your question or argument. Keep your question in mind as you read with the understanding that it may change as you gain more understanding and do more research.
  • Start with the Abstract. The abstract will help you decide if you should go any further. If it doesn't seem to address your question or argument, stop reading.
  • Read the Conclusion/Discussion. The main claims of the author's work should be discussed at the end. If the conclusion is relevant, then move on to the Introduction.
  • Make your own summary. It is helpful to put in your own words why the article is relevant to your research question. It will help you organize your thoughts when moving to the next step of the research/writing process.
  • Review the references. It is important to see what types of sources the author consulted in their research. It can also lead you to other relevant sources to help you with your own research.

Tips for Reading Academic Books/Monographs:

  • Review the Table of Contents. Review the Introduction if there is one. Skip to the chapters that are most relevant to your research question/argument.
  • Look for summary information like a conclusion at the end of a chapter or the end of a book.
  • In ebooks, use the Search within option to find relevant passages. In print books, use the index to find relevant pages.