Scholarly articles are one of the most important methods of communicating academia’s research of important issues and key trends of popular discussion. With over 1.8 million articles produced each year, understanding these articles is crucial—not just for academia, but for students and the general public as well. For example, at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, we found that over 80% of students agreed or strongly agreed that scholarly articles are complex and hard to understand. So, we’ve compiled some steps you can take to get the most important information you need out of these articles!
Break it Up
Although all scholarly articles are different, most can be mapped into five key areas: The introduction, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Understanding the main ideas from each of these sections can give you an advantage when dissecting important content. When you first read the scholarly article, map out each of these sections early on to prepare yourself for how the author is structuring their argument.
Don’t Get Lost in the Details
When you first look at a scholarly article, you’re probably thinking “Wow, this is going to take forever” or “How am I supposed to understand all this information?” Don’t get lost in the details—like with most dense readings, you just need to break it down to the main ideas. For example, read the introduction and conclusion to get the central ideas of what the author was trying to accomplish. Often times, the author covers almost everything in these two sections. Additionally, a good rule of thumb is to read the first and last sentences of each section of the article—this should give you a solid grasp on what content sits in these sections.
Questions: Your Best Outline Source
A good way to outline and breakdown an article is to ask questions about each section, and then answer them. This will force you to try and get what really matters, rather than the mundane details. For instance, here are some questions you could ask for the results or discussion sections of the article:
What did the author discover and how did they discover it?
Are the author’s results factual and unbiased? If not, how so?
Is all the author’s data present in their analysis?
The Intro and Conclusion: Your New Best Friends
If you’re really in a hurry to try and get the most important information from a scholarly article, many scholarly experts and students agree that reading the introduction and the conclusion sections have brought them the most success. The introduction and conclusion sections usually contain enough information to give you a sense for how the author set up their study and the results of said study. When you read both, you’ll have a marco understanding of what the author was trying to communicate. From there, you can answer any additional questions by referring back to the methodology section of the article.
When all is said and done, there is no “silver bullet” that can help you understand all scholarly articles. Following steps like these, and consulting with your university libraries, can give you a fighting chance at understanding confusing academic content. Here at Bibliate, we offer a tool that can help you get the most important information you need from a scholarly article in the lowest amount of time. Clear up your confusion and search for a summary today!