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FYSE: Emerging Adulthood: The Age of Possibilities (Kolak): Reading Research Articles

How to Read a Scholarly Article

Now that you have found empirical research articles, let's review how to read and evaluate them to understand their purpose and value to your research. The information on this page will cover:

  1. How to read a citation from the library's database when you are searching for an article.
  2. Locating the Author's Credentials to be sure the author(s) is/are truly experts in the topic on which they are writing.
  3. Reading an abstract - so you can determine whether the article is suitable for your research.
  4. Identifying the Hypothesis or Thesis in an article to determine the author's purpose. 
  5. Additional Parts of a scholarly article:
    • Literature Review
    • Methodology/ Research Methods
    • Results/ Findings
    • Discussion/ Conclusion
    • References

1. Read a Citation from the Database

Often database generated citations have errors that need to be addressed before including them in your References. You can see examples of APA citations through the Citations tab linked above. However, looking at the article itself will help give you the information needed to complete your citation.

2. Locating the Author's Credentials

Typically, the names of the academic or research institutions the authors are affiliated with will be stated on the first page of the journal article, either near the author's names, or lower on the page. 

3. Reading an Abstract

Abstracts are often written by the author or authors of the article.  The abstract provides a concise summary of the research, including its purpose, significant results, and implications of the results.  Reading the abstract can be an excellent, quick way to determine whether the article is suitable for your needs.  The abstract appears on the first page of the journal article, and may or may not be labeled. 

PLEASE NOTE: It is not enough to read the abstract when writing your annotation or using a source in your paper!

4. Indentify the Hypothesis or Thesis

The first few paragraphs of a journal article serve to:

  1. introduce the topic
  2. provide the author's hypothesis or thesis
  3. indicate why the research was done

A thesis or hypothesis is not always clearly labeled; you may need to read through the introductory paragraphs to determine what the authors are proposing.

Literature Review

A literature review describes previous research or discussion that has been published on the topic. This review of the literature can provide a good overview of the topic and will outline what other researchers have found. It's important to remember that it may not always be "clearly" labeled, however, it is easy to identify. The passage below shows references to the work of other researchers throughout the text, with their names and the year their research was published in parenthetical citations.

Methodology/ Research Methods

This section of the article describes the procedures, or methods, that were used to carry out the research study.  The methodology the authors follow will vary according to the discipline, or field of study, the research relates to.  Types of methodology include case studies, scientific experiments, field studies, focus groups, and surveys. 

Results/ Findings

This section gives all of the data that was collected as a result of the research.  Typically, results are reported in statistical terms, often in the form of tables, charts, and graphs.

Discussion/ Conclusion

This section gives discussion, conclusions, or implications, of the research.  Here, the authors summarize what the results of the research might mean to the field, how the research addresses the original hypothesis, weaknesses of the study, and recommendations for future research about the topic.


The list of references, or works cited, provides publication information for all of the materials the authors used in the article.  The references list can be a good way to identify additional sources of information on the topic.

This page was adapted from Defiance College and Cayuga Community College.