15 July 2020

Your Ultimate Guide to: Reading Journal Articles

Whether it’s a weekly reading material assigned by your lecturer, a material used to research for an assignment, or casual reading to understand a subject better, journal articles are no stranger to the regular university student.

Citing journal articles are important to ensure that your arguments and points presented are verified by credible scholarly sources and not just claims, whether yours or based on popular websites, about the topic. Plus, incorporating evidence from journal articles will give your mediocre assignment that extra mile for it to be a well-thought-out one, worthy of an A+. 

But with the massive amount of resources available, how are you going to filter through the resources, read your chosen materials, AND write your paper before the impending deadline?

Get your pens and highlighters ready! Here are 5 ways to help you choose and read the right journal articles effectively and efficiently.

1. It’s in the Title

Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

While many people tend to take this step lightly, since you won’t be able to get the bulk of the content here, the title is the first and most important factor to consider when deciding if the article is something you’d like to read further. And honestly, this is the easiest step when dissecting an article.

From the title, identify if it uses keywords that relate to the topic you’re discussing.  If it doesn’t, skip to the next article. If it does, continue with the next step!

Tip: If the abstract doesn’t make much sense because it’s riddled with different data and methodologies, don’t worry! Instead, skim the introduction to help you discern if you should toss this article aside or continue on.

2. Read the Abstract

The abstract of the article, which is like a short summary and not to be mistaken as the introduction, gives you an insight into the study done. The abstract will typically summarise the key ideas and aim presented in the paper. 

Based on that, regardless of whether it agrees or disagrees with your argument, would it bring added value to your assignment and thoughts? If it does, you’re ready to dive even deeper into the article.

3. Inspect the Introduction

While the abstract gives a brief idea on what the paper is about, the introduction explains in greater detail the aim of the paper, set context, and identify the problems presented.

At this point, you’d probably have sufficient information necessary from this article. If you feel that there are certain ideas that you’d like to know more about, you can continue exploring the article to get that information. If not, repeat the process with the next article!

4. Skim the Subheadings

Skimming through the subheadings is a great way to look through the content without having to read through every single word because ain’t nobody got time for that! 

Based on the information gathered from the abstract and the introduction, you’ll be able to gauge if the sections are necessary for you to squeeze more information by referring to the subheadings. It also helps when you’re skimming through the whole paper and want to get a sense of what the article discusses

Tip: Even if the article doesn’t agree with your points, it’s always good to consider including opposing ideas to give your argument more depth. However, it’s important to use it as a way to develop or consolidate your ideas instead of creating more confusion.

5. Jump to Conclusions!

Something that is acceptable when reviewing your articles (but not under everyday circumstances especially with the people around you), jumping straight to the conclusion will give you the findings, weakness, implications, and important points of the article

Ultimately, what you’re looking for in an article is the findings to create more depth to your arguments and points.

Tip: Each section of the article is important in providing specific information. Learn more about the sections here.

Bonus Round!

A. Take Down Notes

It’s important to take notes of the interesting points or arguments as you’re going through the process of reviewing each article so that once you’re done reviewing all your articles, you’ll be able to find the information you’ve narrowed down easily, especially for citation purposes.

Tip: Use these useful tricks that will help you while you’re reviewing those online journal articles.

B. Analyse Before You Summarise

Summarising everything you’ve read is not wrong but that’s not going to bring you very far. Instead of simply stating what you’ve gathered, try relating it to the ideas that you have. This will enhance and show your critical thinking skills when you connect your ideas to existing schools of thought or research.

C. The Sky Shouldn’t Be the Limit

While the number of journal articles available would probably reach the sky, your research doesn’t have to be! Set a number of journal articles you’d like to research. As you go along, you’d realise that you’d have a lesser amount of reference than when you first started which is good. 

Remember the word count you have to keep for each assignment so don’t pile your paper with only resources but your own ideas as well!

D. Sound Smart

Even if these articles aren’t used in an assignment or if they’re given as reading material by your lecturer, you can still apply these time-saving techniques!

The best part, even if you don’t completely understand it, bringing it up during discussions would definitely give you some smart cookie points.

Once you’re done with these steps for any journal article, repeat for the next until you’re done with the research you need!

Now that you’re fully equipped with the knowledge of how to read a journal article effectively and efficiently, put your skills to the test and get a head start on your next assignment with proper research!


All the best!

Ailyn Low