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Critical Reading: Tools to Aid Reading Comprehension

help for reading complicated scholarly articles or other text.


Karen Hellekson, in a blog entry posted in 2011 titled, "Humanities, Meet the Sciences," has offered suggestions for approaching papers that are from the humanities. 

Hellekson explains, "There are two kinds of abstracts: unstructured and structured. Unstructured abstracts are just narrative text, maybe 250 words long max. Structured abstracts are divided into sections such as background, methods, results, and conclusion, thus neatly summarizing the entire study."

Hellekson goes on to suggest heads for a structured abstract for the humanities. Papers in Philosophy, for example, don't often lend themselves easily to the structured abstract. For those types of papers, the heads that Hellekson suggests might be more meaningful.



Methodology. She explains this as the approach, like queer theory, virtue theory, PLUS "an indication of the sort of study, like single text analysis, compare-contrast, application of existing theory to new text".

Significance. What is the research adding to the field?

Adaptation of Metacognition Pyramid

Revised for Critical Reading,
Possible Adaptation of Dr. Alison M. Mostrom’s Metacognition Pyramid,
for Philosophy Papers, done by TΦ101 (,
June 24, 2009



What is the topic you are reading about?




What are some interesting questions about that topic? Circle

most interesting question(s).






What are some possible answers to that question? Circle the most

promising answer(s).






What are some texts or arguments that the author uses to support his/her answers to the question(s)?





Did those texts or arguments make the author modify his/her answers?



Source: This adaptation has been modified for critical reading by J.L. Finch (2014) from the original, which was done by TΦ101, June 24, 2009 and found at The original is “Possible Adaptation for Philosophy Papers,” based on Dr. Alison M. Mostrom’s Metacognition Pyramid.


What is a structured abstract?

The Structured Abstract is a valuable tool in understanding the scholarly article you are reading. You may also find it helpful to use for clarity in writing your own papers.

1)     Complete citation for your article (any citation style):




2)     Background or Statement of the Problem:





3)     Research Purpose (what the research focused on and why):





4)     Theoretical Framework (often stated in the Literature Review section):




5)     Research Methods/Approach:

a)      Setting (place and time?)


b)     Participants (control group? random population?)



c)      Research design (statistical? case study? quantitative? qualitative? interview?)


d)     Data Collection and Analysis (how were outcomes measured? statistical methods used?)



6)     Findings (study results):




7)     Implications or Conclusions (what did the authors find? more study needed? ):


J. Finch, 2011. Modified with elements found at ERIC. Description of Structured Abstract Elements,

About Identifying Theoretical Framework